Paris climate accord and U.S. world leadership
One thing about United States of America (USA) is that while as the so-called Policeman of the world, it is highly interest on knowing first hand, if not influence, what goes on around the world, the rest of the world is always interested in policies by its leadership.
It became evident when President Donald Trump’s exited the Paris agreement last week, which jolted the entire world. The Paris Agreement remains a historic treaty signed by 194 and ratified by 147 counties. It cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party.
Exiting the deal makes the United States one of only three countries that will not be party to the accord. Nicaragua has abstained, saying the agreement did not go far enough, while Syria is in the midst of a brutal and bloody civil war.
But the decision to back down from the accord is seen as a momentous setback, in practical and political terms, for the effort to address climate change. As the exit could prompt other countries to withdraw from the pact or rethink their emissions pledges, making it much harder to achieve the agreement’s already difficult goal of limiting global warming to a manageable level.
Trump who is seeking a renegotiation, argued that meeting the terms of the Paris accord would strangle the American economy and lead to major job losses. Many in the manufacturing and fossil fuel industries lobbied for the United States to leave the pact, and it became a central Trump campaign pledge.
While the United States is historically responsible for more emissions than any other country, it is no longer the world’s largest single emitter of greenhouse gases. China surpassed the United States a decade ago, and its emissions today are about double the American figure. Some of China’s emissions are from the production of goods for the United States and other rich countries.
Element of Paris Agreement Mitigation: Reducing Emissions
Governments agreed on a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change. We risk dramatically higher seas, changes in weather patterns, food and water crises, and an overall more hostile world.
Transparency and global stocktake
The parties agreed to come together every five years to set more ambitious targets as required by science; report to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets; and track progress towards the long-term goal through a robust transparency and accountability system. Under the provisions of the Paris agreement, countries have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Governments agreed to strengthen societies’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change; provide continued and enhanced international support for adaptation to developing countries. There’s a fundamental inequality when it comes to global emissions. Rich countries have plundered and burned huge amounts of fossil fuels, and gotten rich from them. Poor countries seeking to grow their economies are now shunned from using the same fuels. Many low-lying poor countries also will be among the first to bear the worst impacts of climate change.
As part of the Paris agreement, richer countries, like the US, are supposed to send $100 billion a year in aid by 2020 to the poorer countries. And that amount is set to increase over time.
Loss and Damage
The agreement also recognises the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change; acknowledges the need to cooperate and enhance the understanding, action and support in different areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparedness and risk insurance.
Role of cities, regions and local authorities
The agreement recognises the role of non-Party stakeholders in addressing climate change, including cities, other subnational authorities, civil society, the private sector and others. They are invited to scale up their efforts and support actions to reduce emissions; build resilience and decrease vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change.
For now, the impact of US exit from the accord is yet to be felt as Michael Bloomberg is pledging to fill a funding gap, offering up to $15 million to support the U.N. agency that helps countries implement the agreement.
“Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up — and there isn’t anything Washington can do to stop us,” said Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who now serves as the U.N.’s special envoy on cities and climate change.
With Trump withdrawal, there are concerns over US states that already have mandates for the use of renewable electricity, some have tax breaks and other supports for technologies to cut emissions. For instance, California, the world’s sixth-largest economy has set a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030.
About 78 city and state government entities, representing almost 28 million US citizens, are monitoring their emissions reduction efforts through the carbonn Climate Registry. They are contributing to a global commitment to reduce emissions by more than one gigatonne of carbon-dioxide equivalent by 2030 — roughly the same amount pledged by the United States in its NDC to the Paris Agreement.
It already has a large emissions trading scheme and state lawmakers are debating whether to extend it beyond 2020. Nine states in the North-east US are part of a regional system of trading greenhouse gas emissions permits. Fears are mounting that Trump administration may take on any of the states to block their climate policies.
Meanwhile, Germany, France, and Italy in a joint statement shortly after the announcement asserting that the Paris accord could not be renegotiated, immediately contradicting the administration’s claims.
“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,” from Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron read.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the decision a “major disappointment,” and Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s environment minister, warned that the decision would harm the United States more than anyone else.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) chief, Erik Solheim urged all parties to redouble their efforts. “We will work with everyone willing to make a difference. “The US decision to leave Paris in no way brings an end to this unstoppable effort. China, India, the European Union and others are already showing strong leadership. 190 nations are showing strong determination to work with them to protect this and future generations.
“There is incredible momentum on climate action from individual states, cities, the private sector and citizens. A single political decision will not derail this unparalleled effort. “Climate action is not a burden, but an unprecedented opportunity. A shift to renewable energy creates more jobs, better paid jobs and better quality jobs. Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels will build more inclusive and robust economies. It will save millions of lives and slash the huge healthcare cost of pollution,” he said.
Leading international climate experts and advocates who are part of the Climate Action Network strongly condemned Trump’s action. “The decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement signals that the Trump Administration is in total discord with both reality and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the first to suffer from this injudicious decision is the American people. This action is totally contrary to their best interests: their health, security, food supply, jobs and future.
“By turning its back on climate action, the Trump administration burdens the American people with rising costs and risks from pollution, environmental degradation and lost opportunities in a low-carbon economy and renewable energy jobs. None of this will make America great, in any way. The overwhelming show of support from the international community in the past weeks, defending the Paris Accord, is a reminder that the world is wasting no time on laggards when it comes to climate action.”
The International Climate Lead, Christian Aid, Mohamed Adow said: “The historic Paris Agreement was achieved thanks in large part to US climate diplomacy, but it will succeed with or without the US, as the rest of the world remain committed to the low-carbon transition. The 20th Century was powered by fossil fuels and America dominated the world. The 21st Century will be powered by clean energy and Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement could mark the end of American supremacy.”
“The world’s biggest historic emitter walking away from its climate change commitments is gravely unjust, but we must respond by redoubling our efforts. Those on the frontlines of climate change demand nothing less,” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International said.