US may do less harm outside climate pact than in it: analysts

By AFP/Mariëtte Le Roux   June 1, 2017 | 06:30 pm PT
US may do less harm outside climate pact than in it: analysts
Green lights are projected onto the facade of the Hotel de Ville in Paris, France, after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement at a news conference June 1, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
This way, the Trump administration, heavily influenced by the fossil-fuel industry, will have less sway over the U.N. climate process.

America's withdrawal from the climate-rescue Paris Agreement under Donald Trump is a blow to global unity but may be a blessing in disguise for the pact itself, observers said Thursday.

This way, the Trump administration, heavily influenced by the fossil-fuel industry, will have less sway over the U.N. climate process, they said.

"A rogue U.S. can cause more damage inside... than outside of the agreement," said Luke Kemp, a climate policy lecturer at the Australian National University.

Continued U.S. participation in the Paris forum would have been merely symbolic, and yielded no impact on reducing U.S. emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, he argued.

"It's better Trump is outside the agreement rather than pulling it down from the inside," added Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, which lobbies for poor country interests at the two-decade-old U.N. climate negotiations.

"With Trump we were at best only going to have America's name on the agreement," he told AFP.

Trump announced America is "getting out" of a deal he said imposed "draconian" burdens that would cost the U.S. millions of jobs and billions in cold hard cash.

The pact was "very unfair" to the United States and beneficial to other major polluters like China and India, the president claimed.

His proposal to open negotiations for a new or updated deal was quickly rebuffed by France, Italy and Germany, leaving America out in the diplomatic cold.

Veteran observers of the decades-old process welcomed an end to the "will he, won't he?" seesaw that has distracted the ongoing climate talks since Trump's election last November.

And they warned the United States would be hardest hit -- economically and diplomatically by the fallout.

"The decision is based on last century's economics and will turn the US into last century's economy," Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute (WRI) think-tank, predicted.

According to the CITEPA research institute, America's renewable energy sector in America employed some 800,000 people in 2016 -- nearly five times more than the fossil-fuel sector.

Fossil fuel 'sacrifice'

Hundreds of American companies have urged the Trump administration to stay the clean energy course.

Not only does the U.S. stand to lose economically, but it would also throw away enormous diplomatic clout, commentators argued.

"We are witnessing a seismic shift in the global order as Europe, China and others lead the way forward," said Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan.

According to the rules of the agreement, the U.S. can only give notice of its withdrawal three years after the deal's entry into force in November 2016.

Withdrawal will take effect a year later -- taking us to November 2020, just two months before Trump's term ends.

It is not clear if the U.S. will seek to continue participating in U.N. climate talks until then, or simply stay away. Trump on Thursday announced the United States would "cease all implementation" of the pact "as of today."

On the campaign trail, Trump had called climate change a "hoax" perpetrated by China.

As president, he quickly appointed a former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil as his secretary of state, and an anti-climate litigator to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The president has moved to loosen restrictions on coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions, slash EPA funding, and reverse his predecessor Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan.

"Donald Trump is on a mission to sacrifice our planet to the fossil fuel industry," commented Erich Pica of lobby group Friends of the Earth.

The Obama administration had pledged a reduction of 26-28 percent in U.S. planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 over 2005 levels.

Pledges under the agreement are not binding under international law, and Trump said Thursday he would not honor the U.S. commitment.

This may imperil the agreement's enshrined goal of holding average global warming "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels -- already a tall order even with the U.S. on board.

Observers tried to remain cheerful -- pointing to the commitment of many American companies, cities, and states, with California in the lead -- to a green energy economy.

But it is not yet known to what extent these efforts would make up the federal shortfall, if at all.

One tangible danger from a U.S. withdrawal from the political sphere, is that it may encourage other intransigent polluters to follow suit.

So far, the world's other major emitters -- China in first place, the EU in third, and India at number four, have all publicly recommitted to the Paris pact.

Another risk to the process is money.

Trump has threatened to slash international climate funding -- which was a condition for poor countries to sign onto the deal. The U.S. under Obama was the largest contributor to the Green Climate Fund.

go to top