US pulls out of Paris Accord: Amid changing scenario, experts fear move may weaken fight against global warming

While experts opine that it is unlikely that other countries will follow suit, concerns remain that some nations might adopt a go-slow approach.

FP Staff November 06, 2020 07:38:34 IST
US pulls out of Paris Accord: Amid changing scenario, experts fear move may weaken fight against global warming

US president Donald Trump. AP/File Photo

The US on Wednesday officially exited the Paris Agreement which aims to limit the increase in global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celcius. Experts feel that the move may have the effect of encouraging other countries to weaken their commitments under a treaty that is already not strongly enforced.

However, the exact implications of this move on the global fight against climate change remain unclear as of now.

What is the Paris agreement?

The main objective of the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries in 2015,  is to bolster the global response to climate change by keeping a global temperature rise in this century well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and ideally, below 1.5 degrees.

However, global temperatures have already risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and as per reports, it's a matter of preventing further warming by another 0.3 to 0.7 degrees Celsius.

Scientists say global warming by more than two degrees Celsius could result in an increase in sea levels, trigger tropical storms, worsen droughts and floods, thus leaving a devastating impact on large parts of the world.

In order to meet the aim of the agreement, countries had to set nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to lower greenhouse gases and steadily increase the goals every year. The only binding requirement was that they would have to regularly report on the emissions and implementation.

Another important aspect of the agreement is that it recognises the obligation of developed countries in helping developing nations build greener futures.

The pact came into force on 4 November, 2016. At present, 189 countries have ratified the accord while six have signed the pact but not ratified it.

US's exit

The move was initiated by US president Donald Trump last year, but the country's withdrawal could not be carried out due to UN regulations, which require a 12 month notice period. The regulations also stipulated that countries could give notice to withdraw from the pact till after three years of the accord. Thus the US could officially exit only on Wednesday.

A lot also hinges on the results of the recently concluded US presidential election. Trump has previously said that the Paris agreement is a "one-sided, energy-destroying" pact which would have made the US a "non-competitive nation".

On the other hand, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has already shown his readiness to re-enter the pact and work towards deliverables.

However, even if the US were to re-join the agreement, the country's credibility would take a hit given that it had not even ratified the Kyoto agreement.

What does the US' exit for efforts to combat climate change?

The US is largely recognised as emitting the world’s second-largest share of heat-trapping gases after China and hence its contribution to cutting emissions is considered to be important. Given the fact that the pledges of countries who have ratified the pact are already considered insufficient to meet the target, this move could have a further impact.

A 2019 EuroNews article quotes "The Truth Behind Climate Pledges" report which found 136 of the 184 national pledges made under the Paris agreement to be insufficient.

"Almost 75 percent of the climate pledges are partially or totally insufficient to contribute to reducing GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and some of these pledges are unlikely to be achieved," the report states, attributing this to the voluntary nature of the pledges.

The report further states that only 28 European Union nations and seven others will reduce emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030; China and India will reduce emissions intensity, but their emissions will increase.

Even though America's carbon emissions have declined by a much lesser degree than many other countries between 2016 and 2019, experts fear that the move could have a larger impact if other countries take similar decisions.

According to a BBC report,  Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia have already shown a willingness to side with the US efforts to oppose the science around global warming. The three countries had along with the US, at the COP24 conference in Katowice in December 2018, had objected to welcoming the IPCC report on global warming. As per BBC, the IPCC report had said that a three-degree rise in temperature was more likely this century than the aim of 1.5 degrees.

While experts opine that it is unlikely that other countries will follow suit, concerns remain that some nations might adopt a go-slow approach.

"I don't think anyone will follow Trump out of Paris," Peter Bett, as an associate at Chatham told the BBC, adding that no one has done so in the past.

However, Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald expressed concerns that other countries including China may decide to lessen their efforts in this regard. “In terms of leadership, it will make an immense difference,”  news agency AP quotes Mahowald, also a co-author of UN science reports on global warming, as saying.

“Having the US pull out of Paris is likely to reduce efforts to mitigate, and therefore increase the number of people who are put into a life-or-death situation because of the impacts of climate change: this is clear from the science,” she noted.

Also to consider are the financial fallouts of such a decision. According to a EuroNews report, the US  had originally pledged $3 billion to help smaller and poorer countries transition away from fossil fuels. Though this was the largest amount pledged by any country, the Trump administration had slashed it by two thirds even before leaving the agreement.

According to news agency AP, China, Japan and South Korea have joined the European Union and several other countries in setting national deadlines to stop pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But America's exit could still leave a potential financial shortfall for many of the essential projects being funded by the money, notes the EuroNews report

Lastly, as per several reports, US states, cities and businesses have pressed ahead with their own efforts to lower carbon emissions.  They say that states and cities will help cut US emissions by 19 percent by 2025 compared to what they were in 2005. The BBC report notes that this may not be enough to make up for the US promise under Paris but it keeps those targets "within reach".

 With inputs from agencies

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Behind Donald Trump’s years-long effort to turn losing into winning post Election Day
World

Behind Donald Trump’s years-long effort to turn losing into winning post Election Day

in the fact-twisting narrative of Trump, his political allies and his supporters, the Detroit counting center was a crime scene where Democrats stole an election, a miscarriage demanding that outrage be channeled through the courts, presidential Twitter posts and cable news stemwinders

Women voters crucial to Joe Biden's win, but gender gap remained largely unchanged since 2016
World

Women voters crucial to Joe Biden's win, but gender gap remained largely unchanged since 2016

Many expected a dramatic repudiation of Donald Trump with a widened gender gap; the results were a bit more complicated

Republican leaders in four US states quash dubious Trump bid to flip electors
World

Republican leaders in four US states quash dubious Trump bid to flip electors

Their comments effectively shut down a half-baked plot some Republicans floated as a last chance to keep Trump in the White House