The most impressing fact about the Paris Agreement is that it was concluded after long time of negotiations. The problem with the climate change have been there for a very long time. A hundred and ninety-five countries from around the globe agreed that urgent actions need to be done mutualy and coordinated , dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
Key purposes of the Agreement are mitigating global warming damages, achieving of zero carbon emissions in the future and insuring financial support for developing countries which will allow them to adopt more sustainable and renewable energy among other mitigation and adaptation measures. An example of a planned measure is suspension of subsidies for fossil fuel companies. This topic has received increasing attention over the past few years. The Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) has identified 39 national climate plans (INDCs) that include fiscal instruments as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 13 references to fossil fuel subsidy reform and 13 references to carbon prices. The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Even China which is the world largest emitter signed the Agreement. But meanwhile, USA’s president decided to pull out because he argues that the global deal, to cut back carbon emissions, would kill jobs and impose onerous regulations on the U.S. economy. His “USA First Energy Plan” focuses on reducing the price of oil, achieving “energy independence,” tapping domestic oil sources, and creating energy-related jobs by decreasing regulation. He has also promised to end what he sees as wasteful payments to the United Nations Green Climate Fund. The United States has already paid $1 billion into this fund, with $2 billion more pledged. This act made USA the only country in the world except Syria and Nicaragua which doesn’t support the Paris aAgreement.
World leaders reacted with dismay to President Trump's announcement. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a joint statement that they regretted the United States' decision to withdraw from the accord, but affirmed "our strongest commitment" to implement its measures and encouraged "all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change."
While Trump said the United States would be willing to rejoin the accord if it could obtain more favorable terms, the three European leaders said the Agreement cannot be renegotiated, "since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economics."
Russia joined the chorus speaking out for the climate accord - a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia "thinks highly" of the accord and sees no alternative to it and added that its implementation will not be as effective "without the key signatories."
What is the role of USA in climate change?
Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could release up to 3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide a year -- enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather. There are also voices arguing that it is better that the US pulled out because it would damage the credibility of the accord if they didn't.
First of all, it will be harder for the Agreement’s purposes to be successfully completed. The USA is a leading source of carbon emissions – 15% of the global carbon emissions are caused by the states. Except that, the USA is one of the sources of funding and supplying technologies for developing countries.
BBC summarized these consequences. First of all, it will be harder for the Agreement’s purposes to be successfully completed USA is on of the leading sources of carbon emissions – 15% of the global carbon emissions are caused by the states..
Under the Paris Agreement, the US had agreed to:
- cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.6 billion tonnes by 2025
- contribute up to $3bn in aid to poorer countries through the Green Climate Fund
The cut in greenhouse gas emissions was part of a global effort to keep temperature rises below 1.5C (3.5F) above pre-industrial levels. If the USA pulls out and other countries do not adjust their plans, that target will not be met, which would raise the risks of flooding, extreme weather including heat waves, and changes to freshwater patterns and food production.
Then what to do without the USA in the picture?
Actually, a significant part of USA’s governance does want to stay in the picture recognising that something bigger is at stake than jobs. Additionally, two times more people are working in the solar industry than in coal.
The governors of California, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island have banded together to continue to work toward meeting the targets of the global climate accord.These seven states represent almost 15% of the country’s emissions. Two of the governors are Republican.
Even the USA’s military is worried about climate change, and has declared that global warming is a major force multiplier – meaning it creates additional conflicts and makes existing ones more dangerous. The Naval bases have already lost significant land to sea level rise and many will have to move completely by 2050.
In 2014, the U.S. Military Advisory Board came out with a report, titled National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, that presents a serious discussion about what the military sees as the threats from climate change and the actions to be taken to mitigate and adapt tothem.
Many businesses also want to remain in the accord, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron. They understand global business opportunities and technology sharing that come with being a leader in this Agreement.
On May 10, thirty CEOs wrote an open letter to President Trump, taking out a full-page in the Wall Street Journal, saying, ‘We are writing to express our strong support for the U.S. remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement.’
These weren’t just green companies. They included 3M, Bank of America, Campbell Soup, Cargill, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Corning, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Pacific Gas and Electric, Procter & Gamble, Tesla, Virgin Group and the Walt Disney Company.
On June 3rd, the European Union stated it would work directly with American businesses and governors to help the United States meet its emissions targets, without federal support.
Couple of days ago the Council of the European Union reaffirmed that the Paris Agreement is fit for purpose and cannot be renegotiated. In a press release the Council made statement that it "welcomes the numerous strong statements of commitment to the Paris Agreement from countries ranging from major economies to small island states. The Council reiterates the European Union's steadfast support for the United Nations as the core of a rules-based multilateral system. The European Union and its Member States remain united and absolutely committed to full and swift implementation of the Paris Agreement, recall the particular responsibility of major economies, accounting for some 80% of global emissions, and call on all partners to keep up the momentum created in 2015 towards successful results at COP 23 and COP 24.”
A well, “the world can continue to count on the EU for leadership in the global fight against climate change. The EU will lead through its ambitious climate policies and through continued support to those who are particularly vulnerable, to build strong and sustainable economies on the path towards achieving greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century, and societies resilient to climate change. The EU and its Member States are the largest contributors of climate financing and remain committed to mobilize their share of the developed countries' goal to jointly mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries, from a variety of sources."
New opportunities for new global leaders in climate change are coming. In fact, the USА exit from the Agreement just might concentrate other countries' efforts in the pursuit of the targets laid down in Paris.. China and India are stepping into the scene with firm declarations and plans to put the Agreement into practice.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the 2015 climate accord in Paris “a hard-won achievement” and urged other signers to stick to their pledges instead of walking away — “as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”.
India supports the Paris Agreement and is ready to take more responsibilities in connection with it. Before the end of this year the first meeting of the International Solar Alliance will take place in India. The alliance is unifying 121 countries in their common aim tо increase sun energy production. The EU is also declaring leadership with concrete measures. On June 14 on the plenary meeting of the European parliament MEPs backed plans for new compulsory greenhouse gas cuts under the Paris Agreement.
These cuts will help deliver on the EU’s overall target for 2030 on all policies - a 40% cut from 1990 levels. The legislation will make it possible to break down the EU targets into binding, national ones for sectors not covered by the EU carbon market - i.e. agriculture, transport, building and waste, which together account for about 60% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Each EU member state will have to follow an emissions reduction pathway, calculated from a starting point of 2018, instead of 2020 as proposed by the Commission, in order to avoid an increase in emissions in the first few years or a postponement of their emission reductions.
To ensure long-term predictability, MEPs also set a target for 2050, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to 2005 levels.
MEPs also propose rules to reward early action from member states with a GDP per capita below EU average which have taken, or will take, action before 2020, with more flexibility during the later part of the scheme. To help member states achieve their goals, the regulation allows them to “borrow” up to 10% of the following year’s allowance, reducing it accordingly.
Although, even if USA,one of the largest partners in the Paris Agreement, isn’t part of it anymore, there are other mechanisms for achieving the Agreement's aims. Much of the Accord's aims, such as financing low carbon technology development, emissions control, and West-to-East transfer of technology and financial aid, are driven by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a financial mechanism under the UNFCCC which helps to fund climate finance investment in low-emission, climate-resilient development. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of the Fund's financing comes from private sources - private equity funds, commercial and investment banks, and corporations. GCF uses flexible financial instruments to finance activities such as clean energy, energy efficiency, climate-related innovation, resilient infrastructure, products and services for vulnerable communities, agriculture, forestry, food, water security, and ecosystems preservation. That means that even without financial support of the USA the Accord’s goals still can be achieved.
Co-author: Maria Alexandrova, Cleantech Bulgaria
Relevant tags: Social innovation, Technological innovation, Sustainability, Eco-innovation, Sustainable lifestyles, Sustainable materials management, Circular economy, Energy policy