Trump’s Paris climate withdrawal

Spearhead Analysis – 31.07.2017

By Shirin Naseer
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

During his campaigning days, US President Donald Trump promised the American public if he were made president he would have the United States pull out of the Paris Agreement—and so he delivered.

On June 1, 2017 Trump announced the United States no longer adheres to the provisions of the Paris Agreement entered into by 195 countries in 2015.

Trump quoted India and China as the two main reasons for America pulling out of the agreement, describing the two as benefiting at the expense of the US had the US continued its participation in the Paris Agreement.

According to Trump, India is getting “billions and billions” of dollars for its cooperation under the Paris Agreement. Had America remained a part of the agreement, Trump believes India and China would have doubled their coal-fired power plants in the coming years, inevitably gaining a financial advantage over an agreement-bound US. Thus, the sitting president presented his case and deemed the agreement as one which the US would do better without.

Since then, India has responded to Trump’s charge and clarified that it has not signed the Paris climate accord under any pressure nor is it going to get “billions” from developed nations as a result of cooperation. Rather it is India’s inherent “culture and ethos” that compels the nation to respect the terms of the agreement.

Trump however remains as confident as ever that the best possible policy option for the US is to dump the Paris Agreement altogether.

Now, it is important to consider what this mean for the rest of the world.

The US withdrawal means that it will no longer feel obligated or restricted by commitments falling under the Paris Agreement– commitments that include cutting back greenhouse gas emissions, sharing climate-friendly technologies with developing countries, and sharing the burden with other countries to provide adequate financial support to developing nations so that they may be able to act on their commitments and undertake sometimes costly procedures to reduce emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change.

Rightfully so, Washington’s decision attracted widespread condemnation from leaders and businessmen around the world. In all the drama surrounding this choice, it seems America may be hit the hardest. Its leadership and credibility has been severely dented with the change in administration and subsequent withdrawal from the Paris Accord. At a time when more and more countries are recognizing climate change as a very real threat the United States’ reputation may have been damaged beyond repair.

Both world and local leaders restated support for the Paris agreement after the US decision and maintained that they would continue to support it regardless of the Trump administration’s stance on the subject. The accumulated carbon in the atmosphere today may have been a product of the large-scale and reckless industrialization done by developed countries, but the countries most affected by its consequences will be the ones located in the South Asian region. Many of the countries located in this region fortunately recognize this.

In Pakistan for instance, it is not alone the melting of ice-covers in the Himalayas and the following water scarcity that is a cause for concern but equally disconcerting is the pace of global warming itself.

On June 18th an article published in the New York Times revealed that a remote town in southwestern Pakistan, Turbat experienced the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia: 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit on May 28th.

In a July 24th article published in The Express Tribune Shahid Javed Burki noted:
“Sixteen of the 17 hottest years ever recorded worldwide have occurred since 2000. The year 2016 was the hottest since modern record-keeping began in the 19th century and the third consecutive record-breaking year. In all probability, 2017 will be hotter than 2016.”

While the international community seems to share this concern, President Trump is unmoved.

Over the last four months it has become exceedingly clear that Trump is not convinced of the reality of climate change. Soon after he became president, Trump signed an executive order which according to him ensured America’s energy independence by reversing the Clean Power Plan—a plan which required states to regulate power plants. Trump’s choice for administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency was Scott Pruitt, who happens to be a well-known skeptic of climate change himself.

Fortunately for China, Trump has vacated ample room for a very eager China to takeover or ‘slip into’ without any conflict or clash. In hindsight this can become one of the most significant and historic blunders the US made under Trump’s leadership; one that may compromise its position in present day geopolitics.

For India, the US departure provides a unique opportunity to build and cement ties with countries like Germany, France, the UK, Japan, Italy, Russia, Australia, and also China.

Trump has said that he is interested in renegotiating the terms of the Paris Agreement if the participating countries agree to better cater to US interests. Germany, France and Italy among others have stated however that no renegotiation will take place and that the Agreement will stand as is. Reopening negotiations will obliterate the delicate compromise that has been established after months of tedious negotiations. This is an ordeal no country is yet willing to put itself through, especially not at the hands of a mercurial and unpredictable Trump.