December 2015, after years of global negotiations, 195 countries agreed to work together in the fight against climate change. Each country put together an individual plan to tackle its greenhouse gas emissions, and agreed to meet regularly to review progress and encourage one another to improve efforts.
The Paris agreement was put together with the aim to halt global temperature rise, not allowing it to rise two degrees above pre-industrial levels, considered a crucial tipping point in the fight against climate change. To reach this goal, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by around 40-70 percent by 2050.
Barack Obama was the president who championed and signed the agreement. He wanted to leave a legacy that could start the reversal of the damage’s we do to our planet. He said “the private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and the engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale”. Obama clearly saw the changes that needed to be made and the benefits that not only America but the world could reap from.
However, now we are in 2017 and the president of America happens to be the wealthy business man Donald Trump. Keeping to his campaign promise to put American workers first, Trump has pulled America out of the Paris Agreement. After saying it would prove “too costly” to the US coal industry to stick to the agreement, he wants to “renegotiate” a “more fair” deal for the US. Obama has accused Trump of “rejecting the future”.
Trump ignores the fact that investment into renewable energy sources outpaced new investments into fossil fuels for the first time in 2015 by $350bn, showing that not only is trump ignoring one of the world’s biggest concerns but also stopping American business’s adapt to the new economic and energy circuit. The US will be joining Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not in the agreement, Nicaragua only declined to sign because they thought it was too weak. Leaving the agreement isolates America from the progress of the rest of the world.
So how could Trump’s decision effect the rest of the world’s environmental concerns? Firstly, America is the world’s second largest contributor of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, calculations suggest withdrawal could add an extra 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the air a year. The withdrawal could also directly affect the environmental progress of the lesser developed countries. A number of countries pledged $10.3bn to fund developing countries fight against climate change, in order to even out the burden of the issues because the developed countries are the ones who are the biggest polluters. Obama pledged $3bn to the fund but only $1bn has been sent so far and now it is doubtful the rest will follow.
Furthermore, the impact of the withdrawal could be more of a psychological one. After the Paris agreement there was a positive, forward motion in the global attitude to combating climate change. The US should have been acting as a showcase nation at the forefront of the fight. However the withdrawal could make other nations question the importance and reliability of the Paris agreement.
So far however the response to Trump’s withdrawal has been one of scrutiny. The Chinese Premier said that fighting climate change is a “global consensus” and an “international responsibility”. Niklas Hohne (a climate expert) states “the positive effects in China and India are far larger than the negative impacts coming out of the US”. Even organisations and influential personal in America have come out to condemn Trumps decision, General Motors has pledged 100% of the electricity it uses will come from renewable's by 2050.
It is easy to get carried away thinking the withdrawal of the US means the end of the movement towards renewable energy. It should be seen as an opportunity for other countries to take the lead on the world’s most pressing issue. The pace towards a greener, more environmentally friendly world is quickening because the transition is now driven by economics- not just politics. While Trump is saying he wants to put coal miners back to work, more than half the countries plants have plans to close or shift to renewable energy.
Although America’s president has taken his country out of the Paris agreement it seems that not only the rest of the world but also the citizens and companies of his country will continue to do what they can to create a brighter environmental future. A more renewable way of life is going to create a shift in jobs from the dirty past to the cleaner future, not to mention helping to stop the planet we live on degrade beyond repair. The withdrawal is a bit of a kick in the teeth to the world’s progress, however the other countries need to now carry the torch for change instead of the environmentally deluded American government.