Has the Paris agree­ment been Trumped?

In De­cem­ber last year, on the out­skirts of Paris, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of 196 coun­tries signed an agree­ment set­ting out am­bi­tious goals to limit the in­crease in global warm­ing. They also agreed to hold gov­ern­ments to ac­count. What is known as ‘The Paris agreem

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

An ar­chi­tect and civil en­gi­neer, the author is deputy chair­man of Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta. ca­co­par­do­carm@gmail.com, www.carmel­ca­co­pardo.word­press.com The agree­ment was skil­fully drafted in such a way that it would not re­quire the ap­proval of the Congress of the United States of Amer­ica. If such an ap­proval had been re­quired, it would have been re­jected out­right by the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Congress. In­stead, it was im­ple­mented by pres­i­den­tial de­crees, thereby mak­ing it pos­si­ble for the USA to join the civilised world in com­bat­ing global warm­ing and, con­se­quently, cli­mate change.

As from 20 Jan­uary, in ad­di­tion to Congress, Repub­li­cans will have Don­ald Trump in the White House. On the ba­sis of Trump’s state­ments dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial elec­toral cam­paign, as well as a re­sult of his nom­i­nee deal­ing with en­vi­ron­men­tal mat­ters in the Pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion team, there will most prob­a­bly be a shut­ting down of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and a huge bon­fire of en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions in Wash­ing­ton, some­time af­ter Jan­uary 2017.

Trump holds that cli­mate change is fic­tion, cre­ated by the Chi­nese in or­der to en­sure that the United States is not com­pet­i­tive as a re­sult of be­ing tied up by agree­ments and reg­u­la­tions.

While Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has pledged to dis­man­tle cli­mate change ac­tion pro­grammes, the state of Cal­i­for­nia is ex­er­cis­ing sig­nif­i­cant lead­er­ship and em­brac­ing the clean en­ergy in­dus­try, a mag­net for new in­vest­ment and job cre­ation. Other US states are fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Cal­i­for­nia: Texas and North Car­olina are em­brac­ing the clean en­ergy in­dus­tries re­sult­ing in mas­sive in­vest­ments and new job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The head of Don­ald Trump’s environment tran­si­tion team is My­ron Ebell, Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre of En­ergy and Environment of the Com­pet­i­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute. Ebell also chairs the Cooler Heads Coali­tion, com­pris­ing over two dozen non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions that ques­tion global warm­ing. My­ron Ebell has been de­scribed as “an oil in­dus­try mouth­piece” – a de­scrip­tion that sums it up in just four words.

The Clean Power Plan, through which Pres­i­dent Obama had sought to im­ple­ment the con­clu­sions of the Paris Agree­ment, ap­pears to be for the chop. This plan had es­tab­lished the first ever na­tional car­bon emis­sion stan­dards for power plants, the largest source of car­bon emis­sions in the United States. The aim was that, by 2030, th­ese emis­sions would be re­duced by 32 per cent from those in 2005 (the year of the ear­lier Ky­oto Pro­to­col), con­se­quently pre­vent­ing thou­sands of pre­ma­ture deaths and tens of thou­sands of child­hood asthma at­tacks. In ad­di­tion, it ad­dressed the fuel econ­omy of pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, sought the com­mit­ment of US in­dus­try to re­duce car­bon emis­sions, boosted clean en­ergy pro­grammes and in­creased low-car­bon in­vest­ment. It fur­ther de­vel­oped a strat­egy to re­duce meth­ane emis­sions, in part­ner­ship with agri­cul­ture pro­duc­ers, and set ag­gres­sive goals for the re­duc­tion of the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s green­house gas emis­sions.

Go­ing by Trump’s state­ments all this may be re­versed in the com­ing weeks. This will un­doubt­edly have an im­pact on, and in­flu­ence de­ci­sions to be taken by, other coun­tries and may well end up with the newly emerg­ing economies tak­ing a stronger lead in cli­mate change di­plo­macy.

The Paris agree­ment was only the start­ing point. At Mar­rakech in the com­ing days the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity was plan­ning to im­prove the Paris agree­ment by fo­cus­ing more on the im­por­tance of adap­ta­tion to cli­mate change, in­clud­ing adap­ta­tion fi­nance. How­ever, it is now ex­pected that US fi­nan­cial pledges made by Pres­i­dent Obama will not be hon­oured by the new ad­min­is­tra­tion. This will in­evitably lead to a de­rail­ing of plans aimed at en­sur­ing the safety of the global environment.

Some are still hop­ing that Trump’s rhetoric will not be trans­lated into ac­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, the first days of the tran­si­tion of the new pres­i­dency do not give much cause for op­ti­mism in this re­spect.

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