Beating Trump dead­line, EU ap­proves cli­mate pact

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

The U.N.-spon­sored cli­mate pact to limit green­house gases crossed a crit­i­cal thresh­old far ahead of sched­ule Tues­day with the ap­proval of the European Union, as world lead­ers raced to ce­ment the deal amid fears that Don­ald Trump would make good on his vow to end U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion if elected pres­i­dent.

With the ad­di­tion of the 28 European Union na­tions, the agree­ment cleared the hur­dle of 55 coun­tries rep­re­sent­ing 55 per­cent of global emis­sions re­quired for the ac­cord to en­ter into ef­fect — less than a year af­ter be­ing ne­go­ti­ated by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and more than 190 coun­tries in De­cem­ber.

With the ap­proval by the EU par­lia­ment need­ing a month to of­fi­cially take ef­fect, the ac­cord could start to come into force on Nov. 7 — one day be­fore the pres­i­den­tial election in the U.S.

White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest praised the speed at which the deal was rat­i­fied even as crit­ics at­trib­uted the flurry of ap­provals to the pos­si­bil­ity of a Novem­ber vic­tory by Mr. Trump, who vowed in May to “can­cel” the ac­cord.

Mr. Earnest said that mul­ti­lat­eral, U.N.backed agree­ments “typ­i­cally take mul­ti­ple years, if not decades, to en­ter into force.”

“And the fact that this agree­ment will take ef­fect in less than a year is not just a his­toric ac­com­plish­ment, it’s a his­toric com­mit­ment to ful­fill­ing the terms of the deal in a way that will have enor­mous pos­i­tive ben­e­fits for the planet,” he said.

“The en­try into force of the Paris agree­ment less than one year af­ter its sig­na­ture is a mas­sive achieve­ment, given that it took eight years for the [Ky­oto cli­mate agree­ment],” European Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent Martin Schulz noted in a state­ment.

Given that Mr. Obama en­tered into the agree­ment by ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion, crit­ics have ar­gued a fu­ture pres­i­dent could take the U.S. out of the agree­ment with the stroke of a pen. Even so, sup­port­ers have pushed for quick ap­proval on the theory that with­draw­ing from the pact would be­come trick­ier once rat­i­fi­ca­tion is in place.

Ne­go­ti­ated at the 21st Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties in Paris, the non­bind­ing ac­cord ap­peared to stall un­til U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon urged coun­tries in July to ac­cel­er­ate their rat­i­fi­ca­tion process.

Pres­i­dent Obama heeded the call by en­ter­ing into the ac­cord a month ago at a joint cer­e­mony with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, de­spite ob­jec­tions from con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, who have in­sisted that the agree­ment is a treaty and there­fore must be rat­i­fied by the Se­nate. China and the U.S. are the world’s two big­gest pro­duc­ers of green­house gases.

Cli­mate De­pot’s Marc Mo­rano com­pared the push to the sud­den re­lease of U.S. hostages by Iran in 1981 shortly af­ter Repub­li­can Ron­ald Rea­gan was elected pres­i­dent.

“The in­ter­na­tional cli­mate com­mu­nity is ter­ri­fied of the prospect of a Trump pres­i­dency, and with good rea­son,” said Mr. Mo­rano. “Trump has pledged to do a full ‘Clexit’ and pull out of the U.N. Paris Agree­ment, over­turn the EPA ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on cli­mate and de­fund” the U.N. ex­pert panel that has strongly pressed the case for man-made global warm­ing.

The European Par­lia­ment vote on rat­i­fi­ca­tion, which passed over­whelm­ingly with 610 in fa­vor, 38 against and 31 ab­stain­ing, came two days af­ter In­dia, one of the world’s lead­ing car­bon emit­ters, sub­mit­ted its rat­i­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment to the U.N.

That still left the ac­cord about 3 per­cent­age points shy of the 55 per­cent emis­sions goal un­til the EU weighed in with its Tues­day vote. The Cana­dian House of Com­mons is ex­pected to rat­ify the agree­ment Wed­nes­day, adding another 2 per­cent to the emis­sions per­cent­age.

The ac­cord is sched­uled to en­ter into force 30 days af­ter the EU rat­i­fi­ca­tion is de­liv­ered Fri­day to the U.N., co­in­cid­ing with the next ma­jor in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change meet­ing in Mar­rakech, Morocco.

The de­bate goes on

But the rush of na­tional en­dorse­ments is hardly ex­pected to end the de­bate over the ac­cord, which calls for a co­op­er­a­tive global ef­fort to hold global tem­per­a­ture in­creases to “well be­low” 2 de­grees Cel­sius from pre-in­dus­trial lev­els by lim­it­ing green­house gas emis­sions.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have chal­lenged Pres­i­dent Obama’s de­ci­sion to en­ter into the agree­ment with­out Se­nate rat­i­fi­ca­tion, while the White House has said that the non­bind­ing pact is not a treaty and may be rat­i­fied by ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion.

“The Paris cli­mate deal is a legally non­bind­ing deal that the pres­i­dent forced on tax­pay­ers,” said the GOP ma­jor­ity of the House Com­mit­tee on Sci­ence, Space and Tech­nol­ogy in a Mon­day post on Twitter. “It is all pain & no gain.”

Crit­ics have also blasted the agree­ment as po­lit­i­cal theater that will place West­ern na­tions at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage with coun­tries such as China and In­dia, both of which are ex­pected to in­crease their car­bon diox­ide emis­sions in the short term.

“The Paris agree­ment is a grand theater de­signed to con­vince West­ern tax­pay­ers to cough up more money,” said Aus­tralian cli­mate skep­tic Joanne Nova. “China and In­dia are part of the show, put­ting on their best en­vi­ron­men­tal faces while they do noth­ing green — or even less.”

Mean­while, cli­mate change ac­tivists wasted no time cheer­ing the EU’s mile­stone vote.

“Today is a his­toric day, and we ap­plaud the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for set­ting the foun­da­tion for global ac­tion to avoid the worst im­pacts of cli­mate change,” said BlueGreen Al­liance ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Kim Glas.

Alden Meyer, di­rec­tor of strat­egy and pol­icy at the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, said that al­though the vote is “cer­tainly a cause for cel­e­bra­tion — per­haps with a glass or two of French wine — much hard work lies ahead.”

“Coun­tries must now move ag­gres­sively to im­ple­ment and strengthen their emis­sions re­duc­tion com­mit­ments un­der the agree­ment if we are to have any chance of avoid­ing the worst im­pacts of cli­mate change,” Mr. Meyer said.

Mixed re­cep­tion

Even within the cli­mate change move­ment, how­ever, opin­ions on the Paris ac­cord are mixed. Cli­ma­tol­o­gist James Hansen, a for­mer NASA di­rec­tor and a lead­ing critic of global warm­ing, de­scribed the agree­ment as too lit­tle too late.

“There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that we’ve be­gun to ad­dress the cli­mate prob­lem,” Mr. Hansen told re­porters Mon­day. “The mis­ap­pre­hen­sion is based on the Paris cli­mate sum­mit, where all the gov­ern­ment lead­ers clapped each other on the back as if some great progress has been made, but you look at the sci­ence and it doesn’t com­pute. We are not do­ing what is needed.”

Af­ter the vote, the European Com­mis­sion an­nounced that it had al­ready brought for­ward leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als “to de­liver on the EU’s com­mit­ment to re­duce emis­sions in the European Union by at least 40 per­cent by 2030.”

“Today the European Union turned cli­mate am­bi­tion into cli­mate ac­tion,” European Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker told re­porters in Brus­sels. “The Paris Agree­ment is the first of its kind, and it would not have been pos­si­ble were it not for the European Union.”

Mr. Mo­rano de­scribed the EU’s ac­tion as lip ser­vice, say­ing that “the cli­mate cam­paign­ers can now de­clare vic­tory and her­ald this cli­mat­i­cally mean­ing­less U.N. agree­ment as some kind of mile­stone.”

“But the re­al­ity is, this treaty is about forc­ing the U.S. and Europe to re­dis­tribute wealth, and it’s about en­rich­ing the U.N.,” he said. “You may as well be­lieve in witchcraft if you ac­tu­ally be­lieve that the U.N. can con­trol the Earth’s tem­per­a­ture and man­age stormi­ness.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

European law­mak­ers (left to right) Fran­coise Gros­setete of France, Man­fred We­ber of Ger­many and Jozsef Sza­jer of Hun­gary vote in fa­vor of the agree­ment to limit global warn­ing dur­ing a ses­sion at the European Par­lia­ment in Stras­bourg, France.

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