The Paris agreement to fight climate change, which nearly 200 countries reached Dec. 13, is a remarkable achievement to be celebrated, despite legitimate quibbles.
The goals are soft, temperature-reduction plans may be unrealistic and sanctions to ensure compliance are lacking.
Yet the pact heralds a new era of international agreement that global warming is a critical problem that must be addressed by nations, large and small, developed and developing.
The deal also provides clarity for governments and businesses that will spend hundreds of billions over the next century upgrading the world’s smoky old energy infrastructure to a new, cleaner model.
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Washington is already a leader in addressing climate change and a leading producer of clean energy, thanks to dams that produce nearly a third of the nation’s hydroelectricity.
The Evergreen State should embrace the agreement and the opportunity it presents, and apply the state’s business and technical expertise to the grand challenges posed by the Paris agreement.
Big advances in technology will be needed to limit global temperature increases so the world doesn’t repeat the warming since the Industrial Revolution. New technologies could also help power developing countries that will need more energy as their economies and standards of living increase.
No wonder Bill Gates is making a big bet on this sector, leading a multibillion-dollar fund investing in clean-energy research ventures. It’s another chance to change the world and make a fortune in the process.
The deal should also give gravitas to efforts to elevate discussion of climate change in U.S. politics and right here in Washington.
The credibility of politicians on the right who continue to mock and question the importance of climate change is undermined now that leaders of every major country have pledged to take action on this critical issue. By denying that climate change is a major threat, they undermine America’s leadership and stature.
They also negate the powerful symbolism of the agreement — a display of diplomacy and cooperation, forged in a city that just a month ago was attacked by terrorists trying to drive a wedge between nations.
Politicians on the left must acknowledge that the costs involved are significant, and that applying new limits on emissions will take a toll on household living costs, jobs and business. Preening about the agreement creates an impression that they are indifferent to these direct impacts, to their peril.
Disappointingly, the Obama administration crafted the agreement in a way that may limit the say of Congress; healthy debate about the policy’s implications is necessary.
But equally disappointing is that Congress would likely obstruct the deal to score political points, jeopardizing progress the Paris agreement represents.
Our nation must do better.