In light of President Trump deciding to pull of of the Paris Agreement because he ‘represents the citizens of Pittsburg and not the citizens of Paris’, the world has been abuzz, with many people, including the citizens of Pittsburg, condemning the ill-informed and science-averse president. To understand why Trump’s decision is catastrophic to the world, we need to understand what the Paris Agreement is and the role each country has to play.
The Paris Agreement, also known as the Paris Climate Accord and the Paris Climate Agreement, is a pact by the U.N to bring countries together to fight against global warming and climate change. The countries that sign the agreement agree to limit the century’s global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Scientists agree that if we pass this 2 degrees Celsius threshold, the effects will be catastrophic and irreversible, i.e. oceans will rise, there will be excessive flooding and extensive droughts, people will die of heat waves and other conditions arising from high temperatures, food security will be highly compromised, and so on and so forth. The deal was signed in December 12, 2015, in Paris, France. Only 2 other U.N member countries in the world didn’t sign it then, i.e. Nicaragua and Syria. It is important to note that Nicaragua didn’t sign because to them, the deal was too soft on rich countries that emit the most greenhouse gases thus contributing the most towards global warming. Nicaragua also felt that a voluntary deal wouldn’t accomplish much. Syria wasn’t able to sign because it was, and still is, embroiled in war.The Paris Agreement is important because, even though it is non-binding, it is the first agreement to bring the countries of the world together to fight against global warming and climate change. Under the agreement, every country has an individual plan to tackle its greenhouse emissions. Developed countries also pledge an amount of money to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt and mitigate practices to fight global warming and climate change. The reason why developed countries are the only ones taxed with pledging money to the Green Climate Fund is because even though developed countries contribute most of the greenhouse emissions, developing countries – countries that have very little to do with greenhouse emissions in comparison – will be the ones that are worst hit by the effects of global warming and climate change. As a matter of fact, the top 10 largest emitters, all of which are developed countries, account for 67.6% of the world total greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S agreeing to this deal was monumental because the U.S as a country is the biggest carbon polluter in all history. While climate change deniers and Trump supporters cite Nicaragua and Syria as also not being part of the agreement, they fail to note that Nicaragua is only responsible for 0.03% of global emissions and has tons of eco-friendly policies, and Syria was responsible for 0.19% of global emissions by the time the war begun.
Under Obama’s administration, the country vowed to cut its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 levels by the year 2025. It also pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. The E.P.A – Environmental Protection Agency – also rolled out stricter regulations for companies and corporations. The administration also classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the U.S.
On the other hand, the Trump administration has pledged to ‘bring back coal mining jobs’ in collusion with top U.S coal boss Robert Murray. Murray is happy with Trump’s decision and met with Trump to discuss how the administration will declassify carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the U.S. Murray stated, “We do not have a climate change or global warming problem, we have an energy cost problem.” The bringing back of coal jobs was a Trump campaign promise. In fact, in February, Murray met with Trump when the president signed repeal of the Stream Protection rule, an Obama-era legislation that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris in streams. Murray said of the anti-dumping legislation, “It is an unlawful and destructive attempt to destroy our nation’s underground coalmines and put our nation’s coal miners out of work.” Murray has also presented Trump with a plan that will overturn many of the protections brought under Obama by the E.P.A. On top of that, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, a known climate change denier, as head of the E.P.A. Pruitt, in turn, stacked the E.P.A with other climate change deniers. The situation is so inflammatory that scientists had to publish an entire study, despite the fact that similar studies had already been done, to refute Pruitt on climate change.
Furthermore, Trump and his administration continue to argue that bringing back coal jobs is how they will solve the unemployment situation in the U.S even though research has proven, along with countries using clean energy, that renewable energy is where the jobs are at. And to make the entire situation even more ridiculous, even big corporations, including energy coporations such as Exonn Mobil and Shell, are in favour of the Paris agreement. These corporations took to various media outlets to urge Trump to not back out of the agreement and instead follow through with it and focus on bringing the dawn of clean energy to the U.S.
Many speculate that the reason that Trump has all these problematic policies in place is because he wants to erase Obama’s legacy. But whatever the reason, the fact remains that the U.S backing out of the climate deal could seriously weaken global efforts to avoid drastic climate change. This is because while the rest of the world is moving forward, the biggest polluter in history plans to further increase its emissions, and this will put the entire world in the danger zone and increase the chances of global temperatures crossing that 2 degrees Celsius threshold. Axios’ Jonathan Swan wrote, “It sends a combative signal to the rest of the world that America doesn’t prioritize climate change and threatens to unravel the ambition of the entire deal.” The U.S is expected to face a series of diplomatic consequences facing Trump’s decision. Kenyans who keep asking me why I’m concerned with Trump’s policies should remember that in all this, it is developing countries that will suffer the most.
As of now, the U.S hasn’t formally backed out of the deal. To do so, the Trump administration can either request a formal withdrawal, a process that takes 4 years, or it could withdraw from the U.N Framework Convention on Climate Change altogether. The only good news is that, despite Trump’s non-environmental-friendly policies, numerous U.S. citizens, cities, states, and corporations are coming forward and vowing to uphold the Paris Agreement. In fact, as soon as Trump made his Pittsburg claim, the mayor of Pittsburg, Bill Peduto, came forward and stated that Pittsburg has a plan to power itself 100% with renewable energy and that the city is in no way in league with Trump. In fact, representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the U.N pledging to meet U.S’s greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris Agreement. On Tuesday, Hawaii became the first state to pass law committing to the Paris Agreement.