Which is more important — the environment or the economy? Such is the decision currently before American leaders, and the answer could affect local organizations.
In 2015, almost 200 world leaders, including then-President Barack Obama, signed the Paris Accord and promised to reduce greenhouse emissions. While not legally binding, the agreement allowed each nation to set its own standards to reduce carbon output and subjected each country to oversight by the United Nations.
A priority of the agreement was “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The U.S. pledged that, by 2025, the nation would lower its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent of the levels in 2005. The effort would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons of annual emissions.
Trump announced recently the U.S. will pull out of the agreement, saying he could find a better deal for Americans. The move prompted sharp backlash from Democrats, many of whom said the decision indicated apathy toward the environment.
U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), recently called the president’s decision “a stunning abdication of American leadership and a grave threat to our planet’s future.”
While detractors — including North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and eight other governors, who signed an open letter saying their states would honor the agreement — tout the importance of environment, supporters of the move say it’s all about economic growth.
“Most North Carolinians believe it’s past time to reverse course on the job-killing overregulation of the Obama era, and the Paris Accord was a serious threat to President Trump’s ability to move our nation toward energy independence and cut unnecessary government red tape,” said North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “Here in North Carolina, it would have driven up electricity bills, jeopardized good-paying jobs, and harmed our economy, while achieving few real gains to protect the environment.”
However, while publicly proclaiming the importance of the economy and job growth, Republican leaders at the same time are making cuts that will affect future growth, especially for rural areas.
When in Elizabethtown on June 5 for the Southeastern Economic Development Commission’s annual meeting at Cape Fear Winery, U.S. Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-North Carolina) said he supported the president’s proposed budget, which, among other things, would make sharp cuts to the Department of Commerce. The budget would eliminate the Economic Development Administration, a $221 million program that is the source of funding for the Elizabethtown-based Southeastern Economic Development Commission.
“If you have to make cuts, make cuts anywhere else but on the one program that is tied directly to job creation,” Gary Lanier, then chairman of the SEDC, told guests at the annual meeting. “Call your representatives and tell them this is the only program that only awards grants that, 100 percent of the time, require job creation.”
“It’s like they’re biting the hand that feeds them,” said SEDC Executive Director Pam Bostic after the meeting. “The EDA funds programs that benefit small, rural areas. By making these cuts, our leaders are ensuring large, metropolitan areas will grow and small, rural areas will not. And these rural areas are the very ones that put the president in office.”
The SEDC, which works for economic development in 12 southeastern North Carolina counties, has realized $90,281,542 in grant money from the EDA, a total of $12,877,222 of which has been funneled to Bladen County. Just in the last year, the organization was awarded $1,634,750 from the EDA. At the annual meeting, Bostic estimated the SEDC receives between 95 and 100 percent of the grants for which it applies.
“We need to make cuts somewhere else,” she commented.
Pittenger praised the president’s budget as being necessary to cut down on “government overreach” and to return the country to the limited federal government put forth in the Constitution.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.