Since its ratification at the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States has dutifully submitted its quadrennial report on the state of the world climate. Until this year. The report was due on January 1, 2018, but the United States has failed to submit its findings, offering no explanation nor a timetable for compliance, according to the Hill. In fact, the U.S. has remained completely silent on the issue ever since.
An environmental group has entered a lawsuit to compel the U.S. government to submit the report, but the two sides remain gridlocked by a series of cross filings in the case. The latest filing submitted by the Justice Department makes technical arguments that ignore 26 years of consistent practices that have abided by the transparency and reporting requirements of our international treaty obligation.
This is bad news for the rest of the world, as environmentalists often rely on the data provided by the U.S. The current U.S. policy of no reporting falls in line with most other nations, who do not provide data on emissions nor information on government environmental policy. Thus, international partners are unable to determine if a nation is living up to its pledges, while constituents are unable to hold their leadership accountable. The United States, long a leader in establishing international norms and treaties related to establishing cleaner practices across world economies, has now abdicated that role and established a new norm of obfuscation and laissez-faire policy.
Some Americans have attempted to fill the gap left by the Trump administration, as a broad coalition of U.S. cities, states, and businesses have created the “America’s Pledge” and “We Are Still In” initiatives to address climate change and maintain the American role as a world leader in the battle against climate change. The initiatives filed reports with the United Nations last Friday in an attempt to retain the transparent information exchange that the United States had previously provided. According to America’s Pledge, the United States and the rest of the world are still making progress toward the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.
The work of the coalition behind the America’s Pledge report is not insignificant. If it were a sovereign state, it would be the world’s third-largest economy and the fourth-largest emitter of toxic agents. The coalition’s work shows that state, municipal, and local governments, as well as individuals and corporations, can lead climate change reform in the absence of commitment from the federal government and the Trump administration. Their report indicates that the United States is two-thirds of the way toward its commitment to reduce emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025, and finds that the real economy actors within the coalition can nearly reach that goal.