President Trump: the End of Tackling Climate Change?
The most powerful man in the world does not believe in man-made climate change. Can we afford him ‘cancelling’ the UN’s Paris Agreement?
Advocates of climate change anxiously watched the US elections last night. The Marrakech UN summit hit the panic button following the election of Donald Trump, a man who has described global warming as a concept ‘created by and for the Chinese’.
The groundbreaking Paris Climate Agreement 2015 was pictured as a historical breakthrough in tackling climate change and carbon emissions. It was a feat of diplomatic brilliance, with 193 countries across the globe signing the Agreement – a level of cooperation that is unheard of international law and politics. As of the 4th November 2016, the Agreement entered into force. Over 55% of global emissions were accounted for, with even more countries set to ratify the Agreement and increase this percentage.
To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
Much of the Agreement was tailored to the US and their climate change sceptic stance. Legally binding targets were disregarded as they knew they would not pass through a heavily Republican and denialist congress. Previous climate agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, failed because of the lack of involvement of the US – the world could not afford for the US to not sign up to the Agreement again so made do without these binding targets.
The US only constitutes 5% of the world population, yet contributes 16.5% of the world’s carbon emissions. To avoid a 4 degree increase in global temperature by 2100, the US needed a President committed to tackling global warming with the Paris Agreement. But Trump has previously stated that he wants to dismantle the accord – suggesting the ‘financial resources’ would be wasted on tackling the issue.
Mr Trump could “simply withdraw” the US from the climate agreement as Obama used an executive order to sign up to the Agreement. The deliberate design of the Agreement to avoid the need for congress is set to have proved useless if Trump goes ahead with his plans. Even more concerning, the progress and targets outlined in the Agreement are seriously threatened whilst Trump maintains this viewpoint.