Aftermath of US Exit from Paris Agreement

Paris Agreement

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Published: Tuesday, 13 June, 2017 10:50 AM

Aftermath of US Exit from Paris Agreement

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Read Current Affairs Topic: Aftermath of US Exit from Paris Agreement

On June 1, 2017, the newly elected United States (US) President Donald announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which came onto force on November 4, 2016. Under the agreement, signatory countries carry an obligation keep the increase in global mean temperature below 2.00 Celsius of the pre-industrial levels by the end of the century i.e. 2100. Scientists believe if the global average temperature increased by more than 2.00 C, the effects of climate change will be catastrophic and irreversible. At the current rate of emission, the rise in average global temperature is expected to be above 30 Celsius by the end of the present century.

In contrast to the Donald Trump who considers climate change a hoax, there is a general consensus across the world about the threat posed by global warming and climate change. Effects of climate change cannot be ignored as the year 2016 declared as the warmest year on record. After withdrawal, now the US is in the rare company of Nicaragua and Syria who are not the part of Paris Agreement. 

Background

The climate change is one of the gravest threat faced by all the countries, societies, corporations as well as individuals that may even threaten the sustainability of life on the planet. The rapid industrialization across the globe coupled with deforestation and pollution has increased the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which trap the heat and result in increasing temperatures. The most abundant GHGs are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chloroflouro carbon (CFC) and hydroflouro carbons The increasing global average temperature had already started causing changes in the atmosphere like melting of glaciers, frequent floods and droughts, desertification, rising level of oceans etc. The carbon dioxide and CFC are also the main culprit for creating the hole in ozone layer in the stratosphere.

Paris Climate

Therefore in order to save the planet from the approaching towards man made doom, Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCC). Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrialised countries and the European Union (EU) made commitment to reduce the emission of GHG gases by 5% against the 1990 level by 2012 and by 18% against the 1990 level during the eight period from 2013-2020.

Since the Kyoto Protocol laid targets till 2020 only, it was succeeded by Paris Agreement that entailed the target after the year 2020.

US Exit

As the per his election campaign promise, the US President Donald Trump proclaimed  his "Energy Independence" executive order undoing the Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan before formally exiting the Paris Agreement. Trump's decree removed the ban on coal leasing on federal lands, undid the rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production and reduced the weight of climate change and carbon emissions in policy and infrastructure permitting decisions. Carbon dioxide and methane are two of the main greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for heating the earth. These measures were crucial for the US to meet its commitment of Paris Agreement on climate change.

However, a coalition of 23 states and local governments including California, Massachusetts and Virginia, as well as cities including Chicago, Philadelphia and Boulder, Colorado as well as environmental groups have called the Trump’s decree a threat to public health and promised to fight it in the court.

Possible Impact

Under the Paris Agreement, every signatory had to decide its own target to curb the pollution known as ‘nationally determined contribution’. For that matter, the US fixed its target to reduce the GHG emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Many researchers and thinktanks believe that US withdrawal from Paris Agreement will result in additional emission of around three billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year which may increase the global temperature by 0.1-0.30 Celsius by the end of the century.

Since the US is the second largest producer, its exit may also create ripple effects and other nations may also reduce their ‘nationally determined contribution’ if not outrightly walk away from the deal.

Since the climate change is the challenge for everyone and if US continues to emit carbon at the current level, the signatories of Paris Agreement may impose carbon tariff on the US products which will ultimately affect the US economy. Its isolation may also see US workers losing out in job market.

Another reason to worry is the US$3 billion aid promised by Obama administration to fund the green technology efforts of developing countries.

The US withdrawal from Paris agreement will make its economy more vulnerable and will also affect its global leadership. In most likelihood, the vacuum left by the US will be filled by China.

India’s Perspective

As far as India is concerned, the US withdrawal may not affect the commitments made by India under the Paris Agreement, but it may affect India indirectly or rather directly. For example, majority of Indian workers are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood and agriculture depends of southwest monsoon. Over the last decade, effects of climate change were visible on the patterns of southwest monsoon. Apart from this, the frequent extreme weather conditions are also causing health concerns particularly for the poor people who had negligible contribution to the global warning but have to bear most of its brunt.  

Paris

Nevertheless, one good thing witnessed after the Trump’s decree is the opposition form inside the US. While the several states, cities and environmental bodies have decided to fight the Trump’s order in the court, on May 1, 2017, Atlanta became the 27th city in the US to pledge going totally green. Atlanta committed to transitioning all its buildings to clean electricity sources by 2025 and 100% renewable energy by 2035. So even if the US is not in the Paris agreement, individual cities could remain committed to renewables and drive down the emissions.

While the US President Donald Trump may fail to make up its electoral promise of ‘Making America Great Again’ the individual US states and the rest of the world seems committed to ‘Make the World Great Again’. 

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