Paris Agreement And United States Exit

United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

Why in News?

  • On June 1, 2017, President Trump formally announced that US would quit the Paris Agreement.
  • There has been widespread condemnation of US exit at global level. UN Secretary General’s spokesperson called it a major disappointment and EU termed it a sad day for the world when climate change is going to be a major global problem. The enormity of the problem is expected to magnify in the forthcoming decades.
  • US coal industry and some Republican members supported the move.

What is under Paris Accord?

  • Paris agreement calls for holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Paris agreement, which takes effect in 2020, calls on nations to establish a fund (Green Climate Fund) of at least $100 billion a year in climate-related financing by 2020.
  • Paris agreement does not have historical responsibility clause.
  • Paris agreement is not legally binding.

Why such a decision by Trump Administration?

  • Trump mentioned the Paris Agreement would cost US millions of jobs.
  • Withdrawal is to fulfil his promises made during election campaign. He wants Paris Agreement to get renegotiated.
  • Green Climate Fund is costing the U.S. a vast amount of money.
  • According to critics of the agreement, Paris deal will be successful only when all the countries meet their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) but this is not going to happen while agreement is not legally binding, the other countries will enjoy flexibility while US will have to face serious regulations.
  • A section of American community considers that paying for the regulation imposed is a losing proposition rather than a leadership.
  • Due to shale gas evolution, the United States carbon emission has decreased in previous years and  so she feels that there is not much requirement of further regulations.
  • The Trump administration feels that the deal is not about climate change but about its competitors getting economic advantage over the US and will handicap the US economy. So, the US wants a renegotiated deal in sync with its ‘America First’ policy.

What is the validity of claims made by Trump Administration? Do you think Paris Agreement would be more effective in cutting pollution or it will lead to job cuts?

  • After declaration of withdrawal of US from Paris Agreement former US President Obama released a statement. “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created”
  • Clean Energy sector is the one of the fastest growing sector of US.
  • Growth in solar energy outpaces the growth in other sectors not only in US but across the World. Millions of jobs have been created in Solar, Wind, Advanced Batteries, Energy Efficiency etc. in the United States.
  • Critics feel that the US has lost the opportunity to lead the global clean energy sector with its high-end technology by pulling out of the agreement.

USA’s intended nationally determined contribution (INDC)?

To reduce its carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 26-28 per cent by 2025.

Are the efforts taken by USA sufficient?

U.S. is the largest contributor to climate change, responsible for 21 per cent of the accumulated stock of carbon in the atmosphere. It is the second-largest contributor (with about 15% share, after China’s 30% per cent) to the current flow of global carbon emissions.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demands of developed countries, is 25-40 per cent reduction below 1990 levels to stabilise GHG concentrations, so that the temperature increase is limited to 2 °C.

Comparison of US and EU (European Union) efforts

While, the E.U. made a commitment of “at least 40 per cent” reduction from 1990 levels. From 1990 to 2005, U.S. emissions rose by 17 per cent, making its Paris commitments just 9-11 per cent from 1990 levels.  U.S. is greatly advantaged compared with the E.U.

Other steps of Trump Administration which are setback for Climate Protection Initiatives

  • Clean Power Plan of Obama administration which aimed at combating global warming was also revoked by Trump Administration. The Plan meant to reduce emissions from electricity sector by an estimated 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 with a view to shift away from coal energy and limit usage of natural gas.
  • Additionally, Obama’s administration six moratorium on climate change were also repealed bringing to light that US administration’s focus is on fossilizing its economy and achievement of climate goals seemed no in near future.

Impact of USA’s withdrawal from the agreement

  • The Financial aid for the developing countries to develop clean energy capabilities is in jeopardy. The road map for rich countries to provide US $100 billion annually starting in  2020 looks more dubious than before.
  • US by its actions also sets a bad precedent on other players who could follow US footsteps.
  • Countries which lack capabilities like Maldives, Bangladesh and other island nations will be the worst sufferers.
  • Renegotiation if occur, will be more disruptive. Paris agreement was itself a huge compromise. It makes weak Paris Agreement weaker further.

More than half of Americans believe that climate change will harm people in the US. But lower than 40% believe it will harm me personally.  (Source -Yale University poll)

Implications on India

  • US largest most responsible nation has walked away, now countries like China and India may have to take more responsibility.
  • Climate Funding for cleaner technologies may get affected which will further limit the climate protection measures.

Would it also impact the Geopolitical Importance of United States at International Level?

This is not the first time that the U.S. is pulling out of an international climate agreement. It withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol claiming that emerging economies did not have quantified emission targets. Further it also withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), TPP etc. This will affect United States negotiating power at global level.

How the withdrawal Mechanism works under Paris Climate Agreement?

Article 28 of the Paris Agreement deals with withdrawal mechanism. It states that parties cannot apply for withdrawal for the first three years.

What is the way forward for Trump Administration?

  • Paris agreement, was negotiated by 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on December 12, 2015, and it came into force on November 4, 2016.
  • According to Article 28.2 of the agreement, even if the Trump administration were to submit a written notification on withdrawal to the U.N. Secretary- General on the very day of expiry of the three-year period, the notification could take effect only after a year from that date, which means that a U.S. withdrawal can take effect at the earliest on November 4, 2020.

Efforts with in the United States towards Environment Protection

  • There are states in US like California and New York which has their own environmental regulations that are very advanced. Other example in terms of Environment protection are, states like Virginia which have switched to gas from coal.
  • Californian Governor signed an agreement with China to work towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

How EU can manage the situation in during such climate crises and withdrawal of US?

  • EU needs to forge a strategy of dealing with players like US who are all set to re-fossilize their economies thus greatly undermining the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • EU-China joint leadership on climate change is a welcome step but at the same time it would also be tough to implement considering that China has no track record on dealing with soft issues like climate change.

Way Forward

  • Climate change is the global problem, so it will affect United States too. As here are no punitive measures one can take against USA due to legally non-binding nature of Paris Agreement therefore bilateral or multilateral talks to bring the US back to Climate related discussions is the way ahead.
  • We need to find the strategy to strengthen the Paris Agreement.
  • As the global community is struggling to implement the Paris Agreement, the International Organisations like EU needs to step up its action.
  • Climate change, green finance, and sustainable development were high on the agenda during latest G-20 meet in Hamburg (2017), this is a welcome initiative.
  • It is also well known that with the current Paris pledges, the global temperature rise by the end of century will be about 3.3 °C, which means countries need to ramp up their commitments a great deal more, not lower them. Thus, the climate partnership need to be forged more strongly.

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