Some say a climate change denier being elected will dramatically threaten global action, but others say other countries will push ahead with the Paris Agreement regardless of who is the next US president.
Oslo: Donald Trump‘s vow to renegotiate the global accord on climate change if elected US president caused dismay abroad on Wednesday May 18, with supporters of the deal saying it was in his interests to embrace a plan that seeks to end dependence on fossil fuels.
US insistence on renegotiation could unravel a 195-nation compromise to curb greenhouse gas emissions reached in Paris in December 2015 after fraught talks between nations as different as China, the US, small island states and OPEC members.
“The Paris Agreement is as much in the United States’ interests as any other country,” said Tony de Brum, ambassador for climate change of the Marshall Islands who, as his country’s foreign minister, helped broker the UN deal.
“Seeking to unravel it would not only threaten the US economy, damage its environment, and weaken its security, but it would do a great disservice to all of humanity,” he said.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told Reuters on May 17 he was “not a big fan” of the climate accord.
He said China and other countries would not stick to the “one-sided” deal, which seeks to transform the world economy from fossil fuels in coming decades to slow global warming.
“I will be looking at that very, very seriously, and at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements, at a minimum. And at a maximum I may do something else,” he said.
Trump has said in the past he believes global warming is a concept that was invented by China to hurt the competitiveness of US business.
Government officials meeting in Bonn, Germany, from May 16-26 to find ways to implement the deal, raised concerns about Trump‘s comments but doubted he would take serious action.
That’s because the deal imposes no real constraints on the US – it lets all nations define their own actions for fighting climate change. President Barack Obama has promised to cut emissions by 2025, but his successors will face no penalties if they do not comply, meaning little incentive to challenge the UN deal.
Many officials also say it is in US interests to limit greenhouse gas emissions, partly because cuts in the use of fossil fuels also means less air pollution, a big cause of disease. Even many nations traditionally sceptical that man-made greenhouse emissions stoke climate change, like OPEC countries, have gone along with the Paris Agreement.
George David Banks, a senior climate change adviser to President George W. Bush and a Trump supporter, said Trump could try to force countries like China to pledge deeper emissions cuts by renegotiating the agreement.
That’s wishful thinking, according to John Coequyt, director of green group the Sierra Club’s international climate campaigns.
“You can’t get more than 190 countries to renegotiate a deal they are implementing,” he said.
The Paris Agreement will formally enter into force when 55 nations representing at least 55% of world greenhouse gas emissions have ratified it. China and the United States, representing 38%, say they will join this year.
If the deal enters into force before the next US president takes office next year, it will in theory be harder to pull out. Article 28 says any nation wanting to leave has to wait four years from the date of entry into force – the length of a US presidential term.
Trump‘s easiest option is to neglect the deal if elected, legal experts say. Trump could ignore the targets set by Obama and promise instead to help developing nations cope with global warming.
The Paris Agreement’s flexible approach, allowing all to set their own goals, is radically different from the UN’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set mandatory targets for developed nations to cut emissions until 2012. The US did not take part in Kyoto – President George W. Bush denounced it as an economic straitjacket that, he said, unfairly omitted targets for developing nations led by China and India.
Former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who helped broker the Paris deal, said this month that the US election was critical to its future. “If a climate change denier was to be elected, it would threaten dramatically global action against climate disruption,” he said.
But US chief climate envoy Jonathan Pershing said last week that other nations were likely to push ahead with the Paris Agreement whoever wins the White House.