President Trump is on the verge of a monumental decision to withdraw or keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. Signed by 194 nations in December 2015, the Paris Agreement establishes the first global goal to limit warming to 2°C above preindustrial levels. But now, the new U.S. administration plans to roll back a suite of environmental measures, and the Paris Agreement is potentially on the chopping block. While this might seem like a distant, bureaucratic matter, the Paris Agreement has immediate, tangible benefits on a local scale. Here in Silicon Valley, the agreement will help create jobs, incentivize innovation, and spur growth in the clean energy sector today – while reducing costly climate impacts tomorrow. We must remind the Trump administration that the Paris Agreement will help, not hinder, our critical slice of the American economy.
Last month, 16 businesses, including Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google, and Unilever, signed a letter to Donald Trump urging him to keep us in the Paris Agreement. Why? It fosters innovation – the spirit on which Silicon Valley was founded, and its promise for future success. Because the Paris Agreement establishes a long-term goal, it supports heavy investment in clean technologies. The agreement also encourages market-based solutions, which incentivizes businesses to innovate in order to minimize costs.
The Paris Agreement also encourages the growth of the clean energy market, which creates jobs. Silicon Valley is already deeply involved in clean energy development and stands to benefit enormously from this growth. We could also lose a lot from exiting the Paris Agreement, because it would make the U.S. less competitive compared to other nations that prioritize clean energy growth.
Lastly, the Paris Agreement can help reduce climate impacts in Silicon Valley like extreme drought and sea level rise. Severe climate impacts pose significant risk and uncertainty to businesses, but they also endanger communities in Silicon Valley. Cities like East Palo Alto already face disproportionate impacts from fossil fuel generation and toxic sites, and are at great risk from future sea level rise and decreased water availability in drought conditions.
Transitioning to a clean energy economy is not without its challenges. The individualized goals by each nation in the Paris Agreement lead us to 3.6°C of warming, not 2°C, so we actually need to be even more ambitious to reach the target. However, the cost of this transition is steadily decreasing, as the price of renewable energy has now become competitive with many fossil fuels, and Silicon Valley is well positioned to lead the charge. Here in California, we are already ahead in renewable energy generation and environmental regulation, and have been operating under a cap-and-trade system for over a decade. Silicon Valley itself is a hub of clean technology startups, and already has much of the necessary capital to continue innovating and growing this sector.
The U.S. is the second-highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, and we’ve set a target of reducing emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 under the Paris Agreement. Silicon Valley will benefit significantly, and has a large responsibility to help carry out, these goals. This region has the capacity to move our country towards a clean energy economy and mitigate catastrophic climate change for future generations around the globe. Everyone who lives and works here has a stake in this issue. I encourage you to call the White House at (202) 456-1111 to express your support for the Paris Agreement and tell them how it benefits your community. Your neighbors, your fellow Americans, and the rest of the world will thank you.