On 31st May 2015, U.S President made headlines with his tweet announcing the new government’s decision to drop out of the imperative The Paris Agreement which was struck in 2015 between 195 countries pledging to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
This caused uproar on the public as well as virtual space regarding the callous attitude of the world’s superpower towards the falling quality of the environment and the world’s increasing temperature issues plaguing the world.
What exactly is the Paris Climate Agreement?
The Paris Agreement was struck in 2015 between 195 countries pledging to curb greenhouse gas emissions and keep the global temperature from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels over the course of the next century.
It became official on Nov. 4, 2016, with 147 countries ratifying the agreement.
Each nation outlined its own plan to curb climate change. The plans are nonbinding, so countries could continue to make changes to their plans as they see fit.
What was U.S’s policy towards the Treaty before Trump’s Exit?
President Obama did not seek Congressional approval for the agreement; however, he did pledge to cut the United State’s emissions by up to 28 percent by the year 2025.
How would the US exit the agreement?
The manner in which the U.S. leaves the Paris agreement is still up in the air and it could be several years before the exit officially happens. There are three ways in which the U.S. could leave the agreement, according to Climate Central.
One scenario is that rather than executing a formal withdraw, Trump and his administration could simply stop efforts to limit greenhouse gas pollution.
If the U.S. does formally withdraw, the treaty requires a country wait three years after joining the agreement before they can file the necessary paperwork to leave the accord, meaning the U.S. wouldn’t leave until near November 2020.
A third and more aggressive option would be if the U.S. pulls out of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). According to Climate Central, the Paris Agreement states that any country that withdraws from the UNFCCC is also considered to have left the Paris accord. The waiting period in this scenario would be one year.
The more important question however that entails this act is how this exit is going to affect the superpower and the Paris treaty itself, devoid of one of the most imperative country and the biggest polluter.
Not only would removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement mean America would be at odds with many of its allies, potentially putting an added strain on relations, but the environmental campaigners say the American absence will make it considerable harder for the remaining 190 or so countries to reach their agreed goals, given that the US is responsible for about 15 percent of global emissions of carbon and promised $3 billion to help other nations.
What does this mean for the future?
Here are five things that could be affected by the decision.
- The coal industry.
While President Trump had promised to “cancel” the Paris deal to boost coal, the decision is not likely to create more jobs. The industry is in a long-term decline as it faces competition from cheaper natural gas and — increasingly — wind and solar. Utilities are responding to customer demand for renewable power, and the policies of any one administration have little impact on those decisions.
- The climate
The main goal of the Paris deal was to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, beyond that point, scientists worry that catastrophic impacts of warming become irreversible. The various Paris pledges by each nation were not actually enough to achieve that target. And even with the environmental regulations passed under President Barack Obama, the U.S. was unlikely to meet its original commitment — to reduce carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. Now, the U.S. may fall further from that goal. Economist Marc Hafstead of Resources for the Future says if economic growth picks up, leaving the Paris deal may mean overall U.S. emissions drop only by 10 percent.
- U.S. global leadership
It puts the U.S. in a very small camp; the only other countries not part of the agreement are Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war, and Nicaragua, which argued that the Paris accord did not go far enough to curb global emissions. Former Secretary of State John Kerry calls Trump’s decision “an irresponsible walking back of American leadership.”
- President Trump’s public support.
Most Americans want the U.S. to stay in the Paris climate accord according to a Washington Post poll in January found just 31 percent of those surveyed supported withdrawing from the Paris deal, while 56 percent were opposed.
Before taking office, Trump repeatedly dismissed climate change as a hoax and suggested that Obama-era climate regulations put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage. Pulling out of the Paris accords will undoubtedly anger many Americans, but it keeps a promise to Trump’s core supporters.
- The U.S. economy
President Trump has repeatedly called the Paris accord a “bad deal” for the U.S. and said it will hurt the economy. Obama had committed the U.S. to contributing $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund set up under the deal, which aims to help developing countries adapt to climate change and develop low-emission energy technologies. Under Obama, the U.S. transferred $1 billion, but Trump’s budget proposal does not include payments for the rest.
That said, the White House could easily have stayed in the Paris accord even as it opted not to pay into the climate fund or impose emissions cuts.
Although efforts to reverse global warming will continue among other nations, analysts worry that other leaders may follow the example of Mr Trump and put their own short-term political interests ahead of a long-term global campaign.
Backlash against Trump’s decision.
Barack Obama, who led the US into the deal, condemned his successor’s decision.
“Even in the absence of American leadership – even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future – I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got,” he said.
Twenty-eight major US companies – including Apple, Gap, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Morgan Stanley – took out a full-page ad in The New York Times asking Trump to stay in the Paris agreement.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt tweeted his disappointment after Trump’s announcement on Thursday.
Both ExxonMobile and ConocoPhillips, two of the largest energy companies in the world, have also expressed support for the Paris accord.
States going against Capitol Hill in protest.
Hawaii becomes the first state to pass a law committing to the Paris Climate Accord.
David Ige, the Hawaiian Governor reportedly said, “Climate change is real, regardless of what anyone might say.” He signed two bills at a ceremony at the state’s capitol rotunda in Honolulu, both specifically geared towards reducing greenhouse gases emissions in accordance with the landmark goals adopted by the world leaders in the Paris Treaty Summit.
Other states also have taken steps to align with the agreement. California’s ambitious plan calls for reducing carbon emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. Both states are among more than a dozen in the newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance that share a commitment to upholding the Paris Accord and taking aggressive action on climate change.
The alliance was formed by three Democratic governors, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Edmund Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. And they say the issue can be addressed without taking an economic hit.
The most surprising thing in this controversial matter is the persistence and the unanimity of the states with which they have been going very against the president’s orders however not tipping to the ‘openly rebellious’ scenario either, maintaining the legality of the grey area. Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English (D) introduced SB 559 and said in a statement Tuesday that it gave Hawaii the “legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies … despite the Federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty.”
What remains to see is how the other states join this show of passive non support.
We are thankful to Pragya Sharma, our correspondent for this Article. Pragya is a second year law student at ILNU.
Image Courtsey: http://www.un.org
Disclaimer: The Article represents the views of the author only and by no means reflect the opinions of ILNU of any person associated with it. Any counter opinion to the views of the author are welcomed for a healthy debate and discussion.