Md. should stand with Paris on climate accord

Given how fast-paced today's news can be, it's sometimes easy to miss important irony. There was one recent irony in environmental news that is worth noting.

This past June, President Donald Trump declared that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. One hundred ninety-five countries had signed the accord, under which they made voluntary agreements to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to avoid disastrous climate change. At the time, Mr. Trump made the U.S. just the third country to disavow or not sign the climate agreement. The other two countries were Nicaragua and Syria.

Then last month, those three holdout countries became two, when Nicaragua signed on to the agreement. Nicaragua's vice president said the Paris agreement "is the only instrument we have in the world that allows the unity of intentions and efforts to face up to climate change and natural disasters."

Then this month, two countries became one: Syria announced its intention to sign on.

The White House response: yawn. The president isn’t concerned about this existential threat to the planet's health. The U.S. stands alone in rejecting the climate accord.

The irony is that all of these developments coincide with the release of a report, authored by scientists at 13 federal agencies, that concluded (as paraphrased by the New York Times) that we are in the hottest period in the history of civilization, leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes; and that human activity is the dominant reason for climate change.

Back in June, almost instantly after the president announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, a group of states and cities said they could not abide Mr. Trump's decision. They formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, under which they affirmed their commitment to fight climate change.

Today, the U.S. Climate Alliance comprises a bipartisan group of 14 states — including Virginia, Delaware, New York and Connecticut — and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, Maryland is not among them. This, despite the fact that the county executives of Baltimore County and Prince George's County, the mayor of Baltimore, and several Maryland university presidents have committed to achieving the goals of the Paris accord.

While Maryland has set ambitious climate goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, I believe it's important for Maryland to join the alliance for two reasons. The first is symbolic — to show the country and the world that, notwithstanding our president's actions, Marylanders are committed to addressing climate change. The second is practical: Climate Alliance members will be working together to discuss next steps in the fight against climate change, and Maryland should be at the table for those discussions. The alliance will work to advance ambitious climate policy within member states, share best practices and lessons learned among member states and launch the United States Climate Clearinghouse.

I’ll be introducing a bill for the 2018 legislative session to have Maryland join the U.S. Climate Alliance. House Speaker Michael E. Busch has told me that this bill will be a leadership priority. Maryland needs to join the group of states that says that they will stand with the nearly 200 countries that have signed the Paris accord, even if the current president will not.

Dana M. Stein, a Democrat, represents Baltimore County in the Maryland House of Delegates. His email is dana.stein@house.state.md.us.

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