The world reacts as the USA abandons Paris Agreement

21 June 2017

Shockwaves have been felt around the world following the news that the USA plans to withdraw its commitment from the Paris Climate Accord.

The US President, Donald Trump, made the announcement at the start of the month outlining his intention to pull out of the landmark agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globe.

Despite receiving advice from various world leaders, scientists and business owners, the president stuck by one of his earliest campaign pledges to repeal the decision carried out by his predecessor, Barack Obama. It’s a move that has proven controversial not only in the US, but also in various communities across the globe.

How we got here

After years of negotiations, all 195 member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) unanimously approved the final wording of what came to be known as the Paris Agreement in 2015. This would aim to greatly reduce carbon output across the globe, with nations making their best efforts to keep global warming to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels.

The COP 21 Summit witnessed the coming together of all nations united behind the landmark Climate Deal
Image credit: JJ Georges / Wikimedia Commons

As the world’s second largest emitter of CO2, the US has generally been viewed as a vital component in tackling climate change on a global level. America joined some of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions – like China and India – in formally ratifying the agreement last year. Those three countries alone account for around 42% of the global output, allowing us to make huge strides in meeting those emission reduction goals.

Making his case for withdrawal, however, Mr Trump questioned the fairness of the agreement’s terms, claiming that the US would have to make considerably more sacrifices than the vast majority of other countries.

The president stated that the Paris Accord would require the US to strip back on clean coal production, potentially damaging jobs in the country. Along with this, he has also been critical of signing up to the Green Climate Fund, costing the nation billions that could be better used for more domestic issues.

Under the terms of the Paris Climate Accord, no member can back out immediately, but must wait for three years after the initial agreement before submitting a formal notice of withdrawal. Following that notification, another year needs to pass, meaning that the earliest possible date for total US withdrawal is 4th November 2020.

The view in the US

The reaction on home soil has been somewhat mixed, although opposition has been considerably vocal. Environmental scientists have spoken out against the “reckless” decision, calling on politicians, state officials and business owners to continue honouring the agreement’s goals on their own terms.

Immediately after the announcement was made, the governors of California, New York and Washington established the United States Climate Alliance, with representatives of 21 states expressing interest by the end of the first day. Corporations including Apple, Microsoft, Google and Unilever have also called on the president to reconsider his position on the Paris Agreement.

Any public support for the decision has largely focused on the finances that will be freed up following withdrawal from the Green Climate Fund, alongside praise for the president for sticking to his initial campaign promises. However, the Paris Agreement has proved popular with scores of other Americans, all expressing their disapproval at this news.

Keeping the door open slightly, President Trump pointed out an intention to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Accord or an entirely new transaction, with terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

The view around the world

Landmarks around the world were lit green in protest against the president’s decision
Image credit: Petr Kovalenkov / Shutterstock.com

The president’s decision came as quite a blow to the wider environmental and clean energy community. Organisations like the Global Warming Policy Forum and Climate Action Network Europe have taken the view that this would be a significant step backwards in the battle against climate change.

World leaders were also quick to respond to Mr Trump’s announcement with reactions ranging from sorrow and regret to disappointment and condemnation. The French and German leaders were among the key critics of the decision, with president Emmanuel Macron even urging American climate scientists to “come and work here” in France.

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, publicly expressed her disappointment with the decision and reaffirmed that the UK remains committed to the agreement. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, also stated that the UK would continue to encourage the US to cut levels of harmful emissions regardless.

The dust now seems to have settled following the initial announcement, but it’s clear that the ramifications of this decision will be felt around the world for years to come. In the meantime, it’s quite likely that we’ll begin to see other nations re-doubling their efforts on greener policies to reaffirm their commitments to reducing the effects of climate change.

Main image credit: Inspiring / Shutterstock.com


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