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 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.