On the 4th of November 2020, the USA left the Paris climate agreement. They entered again on the 20th of January 2021, the first day in office for Joe Biden. In the past four years it has been quite uncertain, whether an agreement to reduce emissions would work without the USA. Now that they are back in the game, there are still a lot of questions left: How will the USA partake in the mission to limit climate change and which role will they take in that project?
This is the reason why the the Sociology and Political science Fachschaft (SoPo) organized a discussion with Andy Halus and Tomas Cybulski from the public affairs office of the U.S. Consulate General. Topics in that discussion included: How to change our own behaviour and more importantly how to get our demands to our politicians and bring them to act accordingly.
Climate change is one of the most important topics of our time. Especially when you are young and know that you may suffer from the consequences, if there are no fundamental changes in our consumption behaviour. We are all experiencing signs of climate change every day. Walking through the woods in my voluntarily ecological year I saw how the drought of the past years did leave marks behind. Some tree species aren´t going to survive, but the question is how do we (the people) make it? Sadly or gladly “We are all in this together”, to cite Mr. Halus’ reference to a certain teenage musical movie. This is why countries with whom the US would normally not work with (for example: China and Russia), were invited to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate by President Biden. For Halus this was the sign from America to show everyone that “they are back in the game”.
But what does back in the game mean? What are the goals of the US? America plans to reduce the gas emissions to 50-52% based on 2005 levels by 2030. There are several questions we need to ask ourselves, if we want to reach these goals without disadvantaging the poorer parts of all countries: How do we reduce our emissions without stalling the economy? How does climate change affect the most vulnerable parts of our societies? What can we do to reach this development without leaving them behind? Mr. Halus mentions how innovation can be the key to some of those problems. For example, to support countries to switch to green energy or to make climate friendly choices. Certainly, innovation and support are important in fighting climate change, but the truth also is that only 12% of the US energy comes from renewable energy (in comparison: Germany 19.3%). That is not enough to supply a whole economy with renewable energy. I see the point that we must revolutionize our energy systems, but at the same time we should be aware that we must start questioning our consumption behaviour.
Most importantly we need to start accepting that we, as Mr. Halus said “are the biggest polluters” and know that it is our responsibility that the world can still be a home for future generations. Another point we discussed was our public transportation system, because in the US there is still no fast public train system, which would make it easier to reduce short haul flights. Even Germany, a country much smaller than the US, still has a problem with banning short haul flights. Using the train is still quite expensive and time consuming. Thanks a lot, Deutsche Bahn!
In conclusion, there are many creative ideas which would help tackle the climate change, we only need to let the people in power know that we won´t vote for them if they just make empty promises without bringing change and support companies that greenwash their products. We must stand up for our right to have a life-worthy planet. Protest, talk to politicians, vote or engage yourself in organizations that inform about these topics.
Just don´t stop caring! Even though it sometimes seems impossible, and you feel like you cannot change anything. The fact that a country like the US decided to join the Paris climate agreement again after leaving it and many U.S. states still decided to stay with these regulations in the time they were not obliged to do so, gives me hope. Still, climate change is a global challenge. We won´t save the planet, if only some countries see this situation, they way it is: A crisis that won´t disappear by ignoring it.