Action Alert

The Paris Agreement: A Plan for a More Sustainable Environment

Climate Justice is a Human Rights Issue Impacting the Global Community

The Paris Agreement: A Plan for a More Sustainable Environment

*U.S. Response
*Global Response
*United Methodist Church Response
*Women and Children
*Corporations Making an Impact
*What You Can Do

Every person is impacted by the environment they live in. Yet the environmental and health consequences of climate change disproportionately affect low-income countries and poor people in high-income countries, and these environmental and health consequences threaten civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 25: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.” Unfortunately, as climate quality declines, families, communities and lives are falling with it. It is the least privileged and most vulnerable global citizens who are the first to feel the effects of the climate crisis, and who suffer the most damage.

President Donald Trump plans to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. The Paris Agreement, established in 2015, aims to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by maintaining a global temperature, and aims to strengthen the ability of member countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.  

“This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America,” stated President Trump, “We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” He called the Paris Agreement “the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States,” and stated that “I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States.” In contrast, former President Barack Obama described the Paris climate accord as the “best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.”  

The Trump administration is also seeking to overturn Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing gas flaring and methane emissions generated during oil and gas development. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management stated that it’s proposing to eliminate duplicated regulations to streamline permitting and boost energy production nationwide.  

“Whether you have Paris or don’t have Paris, the national policy of the United States requires a reduction of greenhouse gasses because of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act,” said Steve Cohen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. This law authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. In addition, the Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.  Under the CWA, the EPA implemented pollution-control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry.

U.S. Response

Since President Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and several Republican members of Congress, including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have been among those urging him to maintain U.S. participation in the global agreement.  

States acting in accordance with the Paris Agreement include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, as well as Puerto Rico.  More than 1,200 universities, colleges, investors, businesses, mayors and governors from around the country have declared their support of the Paris Agreement and sent a letter to the United Nations to underline their commitment to continue to address carbon emissions.  

Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), and Jerry Brown (CA) created the United States Climate Alliance.  This bipartisan coalition of states is committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

According to NPR, 211 mayors have declared themselves “Climate Mayors” and promised to work toward the Paris targets. “Together, we are a political and economic force, and we will drive the change that needs to happen nationwide,” stated Governor Jerry Brown. The alliance is working to make communities and economies more resilient to changes in the climate that are already occurring. These efforts include investing in vulnerability assessments, community-focused emergency preparedness, more resilient buildings and infrastructure, coastal ecosystem and buffer restoration, forest restoration and drought-management planning.  

Global Response

The global climate is interconnected, both environmentally and socially.  According to CNN, the United States will be the only country in the world not signed on to the accord if it completes the lengthy withdrawal process in 2020.  Shortly after Trump’s announcement, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy released a joint statement rejecting Trump’s assertion that the climate deal can be redrafted. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” said German chancellor Angela Merkel, joined by French president Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni.  

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi said it would be a “morally criminal act” for the world not to do its part on climate change. The Vatican said a U.S. pullout represented a “huge slap in the face” for the Pope and a “disaster for everyone.” World leaders have already begun preparing for a U.S. exit, however. The European Union and China have held a summit to outline their own plan to step up efforts toward reaching long-term goals for reducing emissions.  

United Methodist Church Response 

The energy and transportation sectors are leading carbon emitters in the United States, and energy and industry are leading emitters globally. The products of large fossil fuel and cement companies have had an outsized impact on climate change. More than half of the world’s carbon emissions are produced by 90 companies, including the top two American oil and gas companies, Exxon and Chevron. 

In response to these realities, The United Methodist Church released a statement during last year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference that supported an orderly transition to a low-carbon, sustainable world through investments, disaster response, and risk-reduction work in climate vulnerable nations, along with advocacy supporting emissions reductions. Our resolve to work for climate justice is rooted in our faith and informed by our work with communities around the world who are experiencing extreme weather, rising sea levels, disease, hunger and forced migration. 

Women and Children Disproportionately Affected

Following Donald Trump’s announcement of his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WCAN) International expressed their outrage and disapproval. The network was established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. WECAN works to protect the climate for the future of our children.  

“The US climate movement is a people’s movement. It is led by indigenous peoples, immigrants, grassroots organizers, people of color, refugees, unions and workers. It is a women's rights movement, and we are more determined than ever to fight the tides from pulling us backwards,” notes Bridget Burns, co-director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).

WEDO points out that poor women don’t have access to the resources needed to adapt to environmental changes and natural disasters, and they have a harder time recuperating from these events and are more likely to die as a result of them than men.  

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, labor participation for women was still down 6.6 percent, but only 3.8 percent for men.

Women also become more vulnerable to violence during disasters. An Institute for Women’s Policy Research report revealed that gender-based violence in Mississippi increased from 4.6 incidents to 16.3 incidents per 100,000 women each day that women were displaced by Katrina.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cites changing weather conditions as one of the main causes of trauma to children. According to the AAP, between 2000 and 2009, there have been three times as many extreme weather events as between 1980 and 1989, and that following climate-related natural disasters, high numbers of children are found to exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  

According to the World Health Organization, more than 88 percent of diseases attributable to climate change occur in children younger than 5. It is estimated that by 2030, climate change will lead to 48,000 more children under the age of 15 dying from diarrheal disease, primarily in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 

Corporations Making an Impact

The organization We Are Still In is the broadest cross-section of leaders from the U.S. public and private sectors ever assembled in pursuit of climate action. There are currently more than 2,500 participating groups coordinated by representatives from the American Sustainable Business Council, the B Team, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Center for American Progress, Ceres, CDP, Climate Mayors and many others.  

Corporations from a wide range of industries including the tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft as well as Target, Timberland, Campbell Soup and Burton Snowboards, along with health companies have expressed commitment to the Paris Agreement. Google is now the largest corporate renewable energy buyer on the planet, and the first company of its size to achieve 100 percent of its global operations powered by renewable energy. 

Walmart launched Project Gigaton to encourage sustainable practices across its global supply chain. Their suppliers have been invited to eliminate one gigaton of greenhouse emissions over a 15-year period (2015–30). The corporation has teamed up with NGOs such as World Wildlife Fund to design and implement the program. Walmart is also considered one of America’s leading commercial solar and on-site renewable energy users, with about 25 percent of its global energy coming from renewable sources.

What You Can Do

An article titled “101 Ways to Fight Climate Change and Support the Paris Agreement” highlights small reasonable changes that can make a lasting impact. A few actions individuals can take include buying new appliances with the Energy Star label: Energy Star products are more efficient, meaning they can help lower your energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. You can also check your car for a loose, cracked or damaged gas cap to make sure that gas is not escaping from the tank; gas vapor causes major havoc on the environment.  

The “13 United Methodist Women Principles” identifies ways members and their churches can take steps to support the aim of caring for the environment. Principle 3, for example, recommends choosing a meeting venue that minimizes travel and encourages carpooling and/or public transportation. 

To address climate change systemically, United Methodist Women members are also encouraged to advocated for their states to move towards 100 percent renewable energy; stop the creation of new oil, gas and coal plants; and encourage their governors and mayors to sign on to become part of the U.S. Climate Alliance. Addressing climate change is a health and human rights priority, and action cannot be delayed. Join United Methodist Women in climate justice efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the United States and globally

Posted or updated: 3/7/2018 12:00:00 AM
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Take Action

CONTACT your U.S. congressional representative via Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or through his or her district office to express your support of:

  • H.R. 4932 Women and Climate Change Act of 2018: This bill aims to address the disparate impact of climate change on women and support the efforts of women globally to address climate change.
  • S. 922 Climate Change Adapt America Fund Act of 2017: This bill will set up the Climate Change Advisory Commission, which will establish recommendations, frameworks and guidelines for  investment programs and identify the most cost-effective investment categories and projects that emphasize multiple benefits to commerce, human health and ecosystems.

Learn More

Read More


  • Standing up to the fossil fuel industry to stop all new coal, oil and gas projects and build  clean energy for all.


  • United Methodist Women climate tools and resources
  • Read the Environment section (Chapter 160. II. The Natural World) and :The World’s Population and the Church’s Response" (Chapter 162. IV. The Social Community) of The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church 2016
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