Michael Wenye Li / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Jennifer A. Haverkamp, former U.S. special representative for environment and water resources, addressed climate change at Riley Robb on Feb 26, 2018.

February 27, 2018

Former U.S. Environment Ambassador Finds Optimism Among ‘Doom’ and ‘Gloom’ of Climate Change

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In terms of the future of multilateral climate change agreements, Jennifer A. Haverkamp, former U.S. special representative for environment and water resources, acknowledged that “it’s hard not to be pessimistic, it’s hard not to be concerned.”

With the intense domestic partisan debate over climate change and the announcement of U.S. intentions to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Prof. Haverkamp, law, admitted that an aura of “doom and gloom” is often associated with the topic.

Despite this widespread cynicism, Haverkamp argued that many people are unaware of the more optimistic realities of the situation — for example, despite popular misconception to the contrary, the U.S. has not withdrawn from the Paris Agreement yet.

“Once you’re a party and the agreement enters into force, no party can withdraw until three years later,” she said. “One federal administration cannot stop [the Paris Agreement] from being implemented internationally or, even to a significant part, in the United States.”

Haverkamp also discussed other climate agreements occurring parallel to the Paris Agreement, most notably the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation agreement.

The former aims to cut down on the usage of chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, while the latter is a plan to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions of civil aviation.

Unlike the Paris Agreement, these proposals garnered “strong bipartisan support, strong industry support and there’s a good chance the U.S. will stay in those,” she said.

Furthermore, Haverkamp said she is hopeful about “the reaction of the rest of the United States to the federal government’s announcement [to withdraw from Paris Agreement],” as well as about the various state and regional initiatives that have been taken to combat climate change. “Below the federal level you have efforts to address the issue not just nationally but internationally,” Haverkamp added.

The event, sponsored by the Atkinson Center, the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering and the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, is part of the larger Cornell University Climate Change Seminar that will be held through May 7.

“Frankly, your interest, dedication and commitment to finding solutions to [climate change] is what is going to get us out of it. My generation screwed up,” Haverkamp said.