Trump spurns global warm­ing

By pulling the US out of COP21, he is turn­ing a blind eye to re­duc­ing emis­sions and cli­mate change, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE an­nounce­ment by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump last Thurs­day that the US will be with­draw­ing from the his­toric Paris Agree­ment to com­bat cli­mate change is re­gret­table.

This re­flects an ab­di­ca­tion of global re­spon­si­bil­ity that the US, like all coun­tries of the world, has to re­duce emis­sions and adapt to the ad­verse ef­fects of cli­mate change, not just for present, but for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tions, states, cities, sci­en­tific or­gan­i­sa­tions, civil so­ci­ety, busi­nesses and cit­i­zens have made an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the fight against cli­mate change in the past.

The cur­rent po­si­tion of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is a blight on this oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent track record – and it is hoped the US gov­ern­ment will re­con­sider its de­ci­sion.

The an­nounce­ment is also con­trary to the spirit of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, the rule of law and trust be­tween na­tions.

The Paris Agree­ment was the cul­mi­na­tion of a four-year ne­go­ti­a­tion process known as the ADP (Dur­ban Plat­form) at COP17 of 2011.

It rep­re­sents the best pos­si­ble flex­i­ble and dy­namic ap­proach to keep­ing global tem­per­a­ture in­creases well be­low 2°C and is a vic­tory for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

This his­toric agree­ment was en­forced far ear­lier than was ex­pected due to the ex­tra­or­di­nary speed of rat­i­fi­ca­tion by par­ties to the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change, in­clud­ing the US.

The agree­ment was adopted 15 years af­ter the with­drawal of the US from the Ky­oto Pro­to­col to re­duce green­house gases, and re­flects the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on the sever­ity of the cli­mate change cri­sis.

To date, 147 coun­tries have rat­i­fied it, with South Africa hav­ing done so in Novem­ber 2016.

Trump’s words at last Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment that the Paris Agree­ment dis­pro­por­tion­ately dis­ad­van­tages the US are re­gret­table, con­sid­er­ing that the US has his­tor­i­cally been a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to global emis­sions.

It fol­lows, there­fore, that that coun­try has a moral obli­ga­tion not only to lead in re­duc­ing emis­sions, but also to sup­port poorer economies in con­tribut­ing to the global ef­fort.

It has been sci­en­tif­i­cally es­tab­lished that while the im­pacts of cli­mate change are wide­spread, they dis­pro­por­tion­ately bur­den the poor and most vul­ner­a­ble in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

There is clearly over­whelm­ing con­sen­sus in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­gard­ing cli­mate change be­ing the sin­gle big­gest threat to well-be­ing, health and so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment fac­ing hu­man­ity this cen­tury.

Cli­mate change is a global prob­lem, re­quir­ing a global so­lu­tion, which can only be ef­fec­tively ad­dressed mul­ti­lat­er­ally, un­der the broad-based le­git­i­macy of the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change.

The UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change is one of three Rio con­ven­tions to which there are 196 state-par­ties sig­na­to­ries and sets out obli­ga­tions for all coun­tries to re­duce emis­sions, adapt to the un­avoid­able ad­verse ef­fects of cli­mate change and re­port on na­tional im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Im­por­tantly, it con­tains an im­plicit recog­ni­tion of both the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the poorer coun­tries to the ef­fects of cli­mate change and the right of poorer na­tions to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The suc­cess of the Paris Agree­ment hinges heav­ily on the ex­tent to which de­vel­oped coun­tries, which his­tor­i­cally bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ma­jor­ity of emis­sions, are able to meet their com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, which have his­tor­i­cally been low-emit­ters.

Through­out the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change ne­go­ti­a­tions, South Africa em­pha­sised that the prin­ci­ples of the con­ven­tion must ap­ply through­out – in par­tic­u­lar the prin­ci­ple of com­mon but dif­fer­en­ti­ated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and re­spec­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The agree­ment, which will be fully op­er­a­tional by 2020, is premised on con­tri­bu­tions de­ter­mined by coun­tries them­selves to­wards col­lec­tively agreed global goals. So it would be in­ac­cu­rate, as Trump has said, that de­ci­sions were im­posed on the US.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions that led up to the adop­tion of the Paris Agree­ment were char­ac­terised by global sol­i­dar­ity and com­mon pur­pose and cul­mi­nated in a pact that was fair, am­bi­tious, ef­fec­tive and durable.

This was in im­plicit ac­knowl­edge­ment that cli­mate change is a global prob­lem re­quir­ing a global so­lu­tion that could only be reached through mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

We have full con­fi­dence that the mo­men­tum of the col­lec­tive ef­fort to ad­dress cli­mate change will only ac­cel­er­ate and that the with­drawal by the US will not stop all the years of hard work.

We con­grat­u­late some de­vel­oped coun­tries that have re­sisted suc­cumb­ing to a call for rene­go­ti­a­tions.

South Africa re­it­er­ates its un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the re­al­i­sa­tion of the goals set out in the UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change and the Paris Agree­ment.

The global ef­fort to curb cli­mate change and ad­dress its im­pacts can­not be post­poned.

There is an urgent need for ac­tion and there is no space for rene­go­ti­a­tion. Edna Molewa is the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs.

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