The American president Donald Trump announced that the USA will withdraw itself from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. This decision of the USA has triggered a debate that how it will impact the programs related to climate change around the globe.
What is the Paris Climate agreement?
In Paris, 195 countries signed an agreement to slow the process of global warming in December 2015. The countries pledged to make efforts to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
This means that the countries were in agreement to try to reduce the increase in global temperature rise.
Poor countries and island states requested a lower goal by considering threats of droughts and sea-level rise. The climate experts have also agreed that maintaining a 2 degrees decrease will be a challenge in itself. The agreement came into force in November 2016.
Another important point in this agreement was the decision to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to a level that can be naturally absorbed by soil, trees and oceans.
Climate experts have said that the agreement meant attaining for “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100.
In the UN’s climate science panel, it was decided that the net zero emissions must be attained by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.
In Paris Agreement, the developed countries were told to provide financial resources to help developing countries in dealing with climate change and for adaptation measures.
As part of a review mechanism, developed countries were also asked to communicate every two years the “indicative” amount of money they would be able to raise over the next two years, and information on how much of it would come from public financial sources.
In contrast, developing countries have only been “encouraged” to provide such information every two years on a voluntary basis.
A key feature of the Paris Agreement has been the way the agreement reflects the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) which has been invoked four times in the CBDR principle.
Emerging nations stressed on the developed world to take greater responsibility for climate actions since they are largely responsible for emitting almost all of the greenhouse gases from about 1850 to the 1980s.
The agreement provides a mechanism to address financial losses faced by less developed nations due to climate change impacts like droughts, floods etc.
However, developed nations won’t face financial claims since it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”.
What does ‘signing the Paris Agreement’ mean?
There are two steps required to be operationalized in the Paris Agreement. First step is signing. And the next step is the ratification of the Agreement by competent authorities in each of these countries.
The second step is a more complicated and time-taking process. The first i.e. signing shows the ‘intention’ of countries to take steps to ratify the Agreement in due course.
In last year there were 190 countries present at the climate change conference in Paris last year where the Paris Agreement was negotiated and adopted.
Countries have a year to put their signatures on the Agreement. The large turnout for signing on the opening day is an attempt to express the unambiguous resolve of the global community to fight climate change on an urgent basis.
Impacts of USA’s Withdrawal
The presence of the USA in Paris Agreement was important because of so many reasons. So there is no doubt that The USA’s withdrawal will make it more difficult for the world to reach the goals that it set for itself in the Paris agreement.
The US is responsible for 15% of global emissions of carbon, but it is also an important source of finance and technological support for developing countries in their efforts to fight rising temperatures.
The another impact would be the moral impact as the USA’s withdrawal will have impacts on other diplomatic efforts.
Many environment experts have condemned this move of the US. They said that this expected withdrawal was a "historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality.
The key relationship that negotiated the Paris agreement was between the US and China. In 2015, USA President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had found enough common ground to build a so-called "coalition of high ambition" with small island states and the EU.
China has consistently re-affirmed its commitment to the Paris accord and will issue a statement with the EU tomorrow pledging greater co-operation to cut carbon. But, the USA’s withdrawal may have a slightly negative impact on China’s efforts.
Some Other Impacts:
1. Impact on the Global Business
The corporate sector in America is one of the strongest voices in favor of the US staying in the Paris.
Leaders of companies such as Google, Apple and hundreds of other including major fossil fuel producers such as Exxon Mobil have urged the President to stick with Paris.
The Comeback of Coal would be unlikely
The USA has shifted from coal to gas which is mirrored in other developed countries. The UK will stop using coal for the generation of electricity by 2025. In the USA, the number of jobs in the coal industry is now just a half of the number employed in solar.
Coal still remains the major source of energy for developing countries but on other hand, the prices of solar energy and gas have been reduced.
In recent auctions in India, the price of solar energy was 18% lower than the average price for electricity generated by coal-fired plants.
2.Impact on the USA's emissions
The USA’s energy production is now powered more by gas than by coal. So despite its withdrawal from the agreement, US carbon will continue to drop. The projections are that they will fall about half as much as had been planned by President Obama.
The fracking revolution which happened in the oil producing countries has seen a huge jump in the production and a huge drop in the price of natural gas.
Energy producers prefer gas because it is flexible and integrates better with renewable sources which are also growing rapidly.
The Paris Agreement has provisions which make the majority of other businesses, though, both competitive and shareholder pressures to cut their carbon emissions.
The USA’s withdrawal might now symbolically take its foot off the climate policy pedal, the response of its businesses and cities is likely to ensure that the consequences are less severe than feared.
The USA prides itself as being the world’s leading innovator. So it can be expected that despite its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement there is a hope that its companies can make both America and the planet great again even if its leader refuses to engage.