Why the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a disastrous decision

As a resident of planet earth, the fact that US President Donald Trump has announced imminent withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement is, quite frankly, terrifying.

The agreement, reached in 2015, is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement involving 195 countries and supported by 260 global corporations. A replacement for the failed Kyoto Agreement formed in 1997, the main aims are to keep an increase in global temperature below 2C, and to assure finance flows remain consistent with the pathway to climate-resilient development. The historic timeline of climate negotiation highlights the important role of the US in terms of leading a sustainable movement and encouraging other countries to join the fight for a future. Following the election of a new Republican President in 2001, the US pulled out of the Kyoto protocol, resulting in a failure to comply from other states including Canada, due to a belief that without the US, goals were unachievable. With such a huge influence and scope of power, the US has a valuable role in pushing global reaction to pressing issues. Without their support for the Paris Agreement, despite the CEO of CDP (the global disclosure system) assuring that the movement will still go ahead, the strength and security of a low carbon future is unsure. Particularly considering that in 2014, the Global Carbon Atlas determined the US as the largest contributor of emissions.

In 2014 Trump tweeted that ‘global warming is an expensive hoax’. As a result, the abandonment of Obama’s Clean Power Plan due to a Republican support of fossil fuel usage played a big part in his presidential campaign; a factor that was, in short, alarming. On the world stage, with the ratification of the agreement by major players in the league of China and Europe, the global economy clearly understands the risk of continuing business as usual. Surely, with such huge participation (minus Syria for conflict reasons, and Nicaragua on the basis that the deal isn’t powerful enough), alarm bells might sound for the newly appointed president that cutting your ties with a major global deal is destined to consequentially become a damaging move? This is not only for the US economy, but on a geopolitical leadership level as well.

The Stern Review in 2006 appointed a low carbon future to be a leading potential sector of growth through eco-innovation; essentially, greener living and entrepreneurship is where the money is located. On a political level, with new international opportunity for leadership in the low carbon movement (having previously been dominated by the US), there is potential for increased respect and influence. With the United States’ dependence on such a respected role, they have forfeited their environmental position of geopolitical power. Trump may have perceived the Paris Agreement as heavily oppressive, but others might not see the situation in the same light. They may be opportunist.

Whilst the recent withdrawal doesn’t signify the end of the agreement, it does signify the end (or the transformation) of a powerful US influence regarding climate change and our sustainable future. This comes in a period of time where irreversible change is on the brink, and participation in united movement is integral. Trump has made a rash decision, in pursuit of a supposed renewal of America’s greatness. What his short-sighted viewpoint fails to encompass however, is the long term downfall associated with the ignorance of one of the world’s most pressing issues.

Now is the period of uncertainty, where we sit and wait, hoping that the agreement loses no other participants due to a domino effect. Trump may have deemed it a ‘hoax’, but the facts don’t lie. Our climate is rapidly changing at the hands of humanity, and we need all hands on deck. In the words of François Hollande, former President of France, ‘we now know the world is not a commodity’, so it would be in the greatest interest of all parties to stop treating it like one.

Emily Merrill 

(Image courtesy of: https://blog.mendeley.com/2016/09/28/mendeley-brainstorm-climate-change-too-little-too-late/)