Last Thursday I spent the whole evening glued to the TV, awaiting the US President Donald Trump’s decision on the Paris Accord on Climate Change.
As expected by many across the world, President Trump officially announced that the US withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
In his speech, President Trump said “the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” He also characterized the Paris agreement as a deal that aimed to hobble, disadvantage and impoverish the US.
He further claimed “the agreement would cost the US $3tn (£2.3tn) in lost GDP and 6.5 million jobs—while rival economies like China and India were treated more favorably”.
Besides, President Trump announced to stop US payments to the UN Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.
At this juncture, the US aligns itself with Syria and Nicaragua that did not sign up to the Paris Accord.
Despite President Trump’s disappointing decision, the recently-concluded G7 Summit of the group of the most industrialized nations held Sicily; other world leaders (Canada, Japan, the UK, France, Germany and Italy) reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord.
This is the world’s first comprehensive deal aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions. As is known, the Paris Accord signing in 2015 was the first international forum that united most of the world in a single agreement to mitigate climate change.
It was signed by 195 countries out of 197 in a UN group on climate change, except Syria and Nicaragua.
Reacting to President Trump’s decision, leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Norway, the UK, China, to mention but a few, expressed deep disappointment in President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Accord, a deal designed to save the earth’s environment.
To me, the US exit from the Paris deal isn’t a surprise because even way back in 1997 in drawing up Kyoto Protocol up to its entry into force in 2005, the US refused to ratify it.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized nations agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 per cent by 2012 based on 1990 levels.
The agreement entered into force in 2005 after being ratified by 127 countries. The key to understanding why the US put up roadblocks to a climate agreement is the way the US Congress is organised and functions.
Just a few months before the UN climate change conference in Kyoto, the US Congress unanimously adopted a resolution stating that the US should not be a signatory to any agreement that would mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would result in serious harm to the US economy.
So, it mirrors the same reason President Trump has raised. Eventually, the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol was utterly ineffective, as many countries claimed that the US should take the leadership role, because by then the US was the biggest carbon emitter in the world.
And today, the US is the second biggest carbon emitter after China.
Arguably, the US is unwilling to harm its industries and companies that have invested heavily in fossil fuels.
Despite this major disappointment, the rest of the world is committed to the Paris Accord. There’s a more serious commitment by most developed and developing countries than ever before.
And the world cannot always rely on the position of one country—the USA. The world can thrive without the US. In the near future, the measure of greatness will be contingent upon its ability to increase and enhance your climate action.
Today, especially developing poorest nations, see the Paris Climate Agreement as is their ‘lifeline’ and thus must be wholly observed. According to the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) representing 48 of the less-developing countries, the effective implementation of the Paris Accord would be a turning point to their survival.
Approximately one billion people live in countries that are part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.
Nonetheless, a call concerns all nations—rich and poor—to develop the rule book for the Paris Accord, as a guide principle for the future generation.
To refresh the mind, the key pledges of the Paris Accord are: to keep global temperatures ‘well below’ 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and endeavour to limit them even more, to 1.5C; to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100; to review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge; for rich countries to help poorer nations by providing ‘climate finance’ to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
It is quite important to welcome the recommitment to the Paris Accord by other G7 members, except the US, as well the European Union and China that have made a joint declaration to live up to the deal.
This must be the same commitment to the rest of the world.
The writer is an international law expert.