BRATTLEBORO — Responding to climate change isn’t just about moral obligation; it’s also about economic opportunity. That was the message climate expert Edward Cameron had for a crowd of about 20 people at the Brattleboro Public Library Tuesday night.
Cameron, one of the architects of the Paris climate accord, said the 2015 agreement, which united almost every country in the world in reducing carbon emissions, is “a stimulus package for a global economy.”
The agreement commits member countries to taking steps to limit global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Under the auspices of the agreement, countries around the world committed to reducing their carbon footprint and dedicating funds to the cause. Cameron said the 196 countries that signed up will spend an estimated $13.5 trillion on clean energy in the next 15 years.
“We’re talking about a totally different global economy being created as a consequence of what we’re seeing emerging from the Paris agreement, and like anything, there are going to be winners and losers,” he said. “And it’s very, very important in this regard to be a winner.”
But politics, Cameron said, may prevent the United States from taking part in the economic boom. Last June, President Donald Trump announced the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, saying the landmark agreement imposes unfair standards on the American economy.
The United States previously committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to below 2005 levels by more than a quarter by 2025.
But in pulling from the agreement, Cameron said, the nation will lose economic opportunities in the new market. Some of these economic opportunities, according to Cameron, will likely be created in China, which committed to reaching peak emissions by 2030. Cameron said China intends to achieve this goal by relying on renewable energy.
China, he said, is aware of the risks of climate change to its own population and stability, not only from pollution but from rising sea levels and drought.
“The reality is, there’s no need for a sanction … they’re not doing this for you, they’re doing this for them,” he said. “… They’re doing it because they are smart enough to realize that seizing the global market on renewable energy may make them the energy superpower of the 21st century.”
Trump’s announcement triggered a series of rebukes from world leaders and also prompted cities and states — including Vermont — to adopt their own carbon emission reduction goals. In July, the Keene City Council backed a resolution supporting the Paris accord and approved a measure allowing Mayor Kendall W. Lane to sign an open letter endorsing it.
Cameron was invited to discuss climate change by the southeast Vermont grassroots group Post Oil Solutions. The goal of these lectures, said climate organizer Tim Stevenson, is to raise awareness of climate change, promote discussion and spur grassroots action. The lecture comes at a time when countries are preparing for November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, where the accord will be discussed.
Cameron, who has a Ph.D. in social science, business and economics, has worked with governments and global organizations for the past 20 years. He has worked on climate change issues at the World Bank, as a senior adviser to the Republic of the Maldives’ government, as well as with eurozone countries, among other posts.
He is a senior adviser on climate policy to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, where he focuses on United Nations climate negotiations.
The political climate that led to the United States likely withdrawing from the accord has also led the administration to make moves to roll back other climate change policies, Cameron said. The Trump administration removed dozens of Environmental Protection Agency climate-change resource pages for states and local municipalities, according to The New York Times. Mentions of climate change were scrubbed from an EPA web page, previously called “Climate and energy resources for state, local and tribal governments.” It is now called “Energy resources for state, local and tribal governments.”
Cameron said resolving the political deadlock around climate change is an important part of the solution.
“You cannot solve climate change if you don’t solve politics,” he said.