Would the Paris Accord survive America’s withdrawal? http://theindianeconomist.com/would-the-paris-accord-survive-americas-withdrawal/
p class=”appyet_title appyet_title_read” style=”margin-top:15px;font-family:AppYet-Condensed-Sans;line-height:28px;color:rgb(136,136,136);font-size:22px;background-color:rgb(255,255,255);”>Would the Paris Accord survive America’s withdrawal?
The President of the United States Donald Trump recently signed an executive order aiming to undo a 2015 plan proposed by former President Barack Obama to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. In an attempt to prioritise American jobs over climate change, the order also lifts the ban on coal mining leases on public lands and revokes six Obama directives related to climate, including ones on national security, and adaptation to climate change’s worst impacts.
Surprisingly, the order does not withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement. However, this could make it more difficult for the U.S. to achieve its carbon reduction goals, even though not impossible.
The Paris Accord
Brought into force on November 4, 2016, the Paris Accord primarily aims at keeping global average temperature “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” with efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. The Paris negotiations had adopted the type of plan the U.S. had long sought: a flexible dialogue going forward that would require appropriate contributions from all countries and would be judged by all countries. To this effect, all participating nations are required to submit ‘nationally determined contributions’ which outline their action plans for achieving the accord’s primary aim.
With a picture of the negotiations and the vision that build up the Paris Agreement, it becomes clear that the United States is arguably in the best position to benefit economically from the global transition to a clean energy economy. The Paris Agreement creates new opportunities and expands markets abroad that U.S. companies are well positioned to exploit. With a withdrawal, the United States risks ceding this space to countries like China that are investing heavily in renewable technologies.
Those with glass houses
The criticism of Trump’s executive order has been led by the European Union suggesting that Europe will now take the lead in global efforts. However, a recent ranking study has shown that Sweden, Germany and France are the only European countries that are even halfway to meet the requirements of the Paris agreement. Further, Germany is continuing to see its greenhouse gas emissions rise. Therefore, EU is leading the charge against the United States when its own houses are pretty much made of glass. In this atmosphere, it is imperative that other nations step up and contribute to a more multilateral response to America’s withdrawal from its promises.
China set to fill the leadership void
“The rest of the world will be asked to cover for the U.S. falling behind,” Mark Lynas, a British author, journalist and environmental activist, was quoted as saying. The statement especially assumes significance in the light of the claims that a trade-off, to make America stay, is likely to be weaker emissions commitments and no new climate aid for the remainder of President Trump’s term. Further, according to Mr Lynas, it is China’s attitude that could swing the momentum of the climate change initiative on either side. Naming China as the ‘world’s largest emitter’, he expressed concerns over the course of action that it would take: whether it would continue to fulfil the deal that was struck with Obama, or seize the opportunity to abandon the Paris Agreement. Reports indicate towards China having adopted the former option, seizing the leadership opportunity that America’s withdrawal brings.
Moreover, China has been outperforming its climate change targets with statistics indicating that it might actually achieve its targets earlier than it had anticipated. In fact, China views investment in climate-related action as essential to secure a safe and prosperous future for Chinese citizens. The nation also sees this as a strategic opportunity to develop and supply the technologies of the future. Therefore, being a global player on this subject, China’s approach could fill the much-required leadership void that the American withdrawal would create.
The ideological impact of withdrawal
Moreover, with the Paris Climate Agreement bringing on more countries every week, it has been opined that the Agreement has too much momentum to be stopped now. It was recently noted by the National Resource Defence Council that 17 new countries have signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 alone. The 137 countries now signed onto the agreement account for 82 percent of the world’s emissions. However, the Achilles’ heel of the Paris Agreement is that it is built on consensus. Hence, the withdrawal of a recalcitrant United States might make it easier for emitters such as China and the European Union to design details of a trillion-dollar shift from fossil fuels. Nonetheless, the plausibility of a pullout of the world’s top economy influencing the other nations’ willingness to cut greenhouse gas emissions would remain. It is this ideological impact that could spell the end of the Paris Agreement.
Featured image credits: The Blaze.