US to exit from Paris accord: a wrong ‘Trump’ card?

The essence of Paris Agreement is to get the signatories to collectively take effort to restrict the global warming to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement also focuses on increasing adaptability and resilience to adjust to the adverse impacts of climate change. Additionally, the objective also suggests the flow of finances to lower greenhouse gas emissions and pursue climate-resilient development.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established along with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to raise USD 100 billion every year by 2020. The main objective of the GCF was to support and fund the developing nations for projects, programmes, policies and other activities.

This was also one of the major reasons why the US President, Donald Trump, had announced US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. He stated that the GCF was a scheme to redistribute wealth from the rich countries to the poor. The former US President, Barrack Obama, had nationally pledged to reduce the CO2 emissions by 2025 from 26% to 28% relative to 2005 levels. A contribution of USD 1 billion was also made to the GCF during his tenure. He had also pledged to contribute a total of USD 3 billion by 2020 as a part of the global contribution. However, Donald Trump stopped the funding since his election. He also decided to opt out of the Paris Accord as he believed that the agreement was biased toward developing countries, like India, that was building next generation power plants. He also maintained that the Paris Agreement would not work unless even the developing countries decided to switch over to cleaner sources of energy.

The Paris Agreement is not a binding treaty and the US was not legally obligated to shell out any money. So, technically, the US could have remained a part of the agreement without having to spend at all. According to Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, a country can withdraw any time after three years from the date on which the Agreement entered into force, by giving written notification to the Depositary. The withdrawal brought into effect upon completion of one year from the date of receipt by the Depositary withdrawal notification. Thus, United States may have a probable exit around late 2020.

But the agreement has been highlighted to have its drawbacks; a few are:

  • Compensation mechanisms for irreparable damages were not factored
  • Based on the data of the Paris Agreement commitments from Climate Analytics, ECOFYS, the New Climate Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, it was concluded that these commitments were below par and by the year 2100, it could yet make the global temperature to be up by 2.7 °C
  • It was also suggested that the global annual contribution of USD 100 billion was insufficient and short by hundreds of billions for the damages that were already done

Beneficiaries of this accord, for obvious reasons, are not the world fossil-fuel generators that are practically at the helm of the world’s economy but the newer entities involved in manufacturing of equipments and construction of large units for renewable energy.

Opinions from a few renowned personalities are as follows:

  • Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that Donald Trump’s exit could negatively affect gaining cooperation from other countries on issues such as trade and terrorism
  • Li Shuo, senior global policy adviser with Greenpeace East Asia stated that the world should not wait for one country
  • John Sterman, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and senior advisor at ClimateInteractive, stated that the scenario after the US exit may not be easy to foresee but countries could start levying carbon tax and other such charges on exports from the US. He also contemplated that the US exit could lead to other countries following suit
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disappointment at the US decision but also maintained that Canada would be unmoved in its commitment to fight climate change
  • ‘Friends of the Earth International’ called the agreement a sham and also claimed that it was an outcome of deception and bullying

Effect of US exit – Mainly with the US exit, the environmental and the economic requirement of this agreement may get affected as the US is the no.2 greenhouse gas emitter after China and also a major contributor in the Green Climate Funds. It could also be contemplated that the global investment into responsible investments may be affected.

Although it may be too soon to conclude the exact aftereffects of the US exit but the above contemplations may stand firm as a cause for worry, both environmentally and economically, for all other countries.