Editor's Note: This article was originally published on 1 June, it has been republished in light of Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
United States president Donald Trump is keeping the world guessing about his stand on the Paris Agreement on climate change. If he signs on the order to formally withdraw the United States from the international agreement, as widely expected, it would isolate the country in the international arena and may even badly hit the American economy at a time when the world is beginning to shift towards low-carbon economic growth. Above all, it is bound to make the planet a warmer place to live in.
Though non-binding in nature, the 2015 Paris Agreement represents the collective will of all countries to save the planet from the catastrophic impacts of climate change in the decades to come. If the world’s biggest polluter, presently, and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions of the past does not want to be a part of even a non-binding deal, it would certainly weaken global climate action. It would also be a major blow to the very concept of multilateralism and treaties negotiated by the United Nations.
United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate deal would mean that the country will continue to emit more and more carbon into the atmosphere. Even if other countries reduce emissions, as committed, this would enhance the global temperature – as simulation studies had shown. It would be wrong to assume that American action would have no impact at all on global climate.
Trump is a known climate change sceptic and has packed his administration with climate deniers and other sceptics in key positions. He has no advisor on climate change or science and technology. During his presidential campaign and in the weeks following his inauguration, he had made it amply clear that he does not believe in climate change and that he would do everything at his command to roll back all climate actions initiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Clearly, all this was not just campaign rhetoric, as many had predicted. In March, he signed an executive order to scrap the Clean Power Plan, which Obama had put in place to fulfil pledges made by America under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions. In this sense, the march backwards from international commitments had already begun in March. A formal withdrawal from the deal – negotiated under the umbrella of the United National Convention on Climate Change – is now a mere question of legality.
As it is, Paris was not a great deal. It was a weak deal hammered out under a great push by the industrialised world, led by America. Since America and other Western countries were not ready to accept any binding cuts in emissions – unlike the binding nature of the Kyoto Protocol – Paris Agreement was proposed as a way out. It, for the first time, brought the rich and the poor, developed and developing all countries under one ambit.
The idea behind the Paris deal was that every country should commit to reduce emissions on its own and make available a plan to do so. The logic was that if all such commitments are implemented, the world would collectively be able to keep the planet below the critical threshold – of a less than two-degree rise in temperature.
If Trump pulls America out of this deal, the very premise of the Paris Agreement falls flat.
It is difficult to say at this stage if other countries too will walk out, but certainly, it would be difficult for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to keep the flock together and march towards a global climate framework by 2020, as planned.
Trump is unleashing his anti-climate action at a time when the world has begun to shift to a low-carbon path of development. Actions taken by India and China, in rolling out renewable energy in the past two years, have been recognised globally and would be a great contributor to climate action if the momentum continues.
Several other countries on similar growth trajectories are doing the same. Incidentally, America has a bilateral agreement with China on climate change. If Trump is withdrawing from Paris Agreement, he should also scrap the climate deal with China.
Like the fossil fuel industry, whose interests Trump is seeking to protect, America has a huge stake in renewable technologies as well. If America is going strong on coal and oil, research and development into renewable energy will take a hit. This, in turn, would impact the renewable industry and its competitiveness globally.
Ironically such a thing would negate what Trump is claiming to do – make America great again. If renewable is going be at the centre of all energy development in future, this sector will also create new jobs and manufacturing opportunities. That’s why leading American corporations have appealed to Trump not to walk out of the Paris Agreement.
Overall, Trump symbolises a victory for the fossil fuel industry, which has been operating all these years through lobbyists and sponsored and fake research, to undermine climate change and the science behind it. Now, it won’t have to spend money on all this. The president is on the side of fossil fuels. The planet can fend for itself.
Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 07:19 AM