Deal or no deal | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 02, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:11 PM, June 05, 2017

International

Deal or no deal

What would Trump's refusal to commit to the Paris climate accord mean for the environment?

By the time you read the piece, the entire world would still be waiting for the American president Donald Trump to make his “final decision” on the Paris climate accord. Despite immense pressure and lobbying from fellow G7 powers, he has failed to endorse the deal at the summit, forcing the rest of the members to formulate a pro-accord communiqué in support of the deal excluding the United States.

While he insists that he is yet to make a decision on whether to honour the only global commitment to save the planet from a premature doomsday, he reportedly told his close confidants that he would exit. However, his defense secretary James Mattis says the president is “wide-open” on the issue.

The Paris accord, set out in 2015, aims to keep the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C, requiring countries to reduce their carbon emission significantly. Even though environmental groups insisted that it was not enough, the deal remains the most comprehensive climate agreement ever. It came into force on November 4 last year, after 55 countries collectively responsible for 55 percent of global carbon emissions, including the US, ratified it.

Trump's refusal to commit to the deal is absolutely in line with his electoral pledges and policy decisions since coming to power. He has promised to increase jobs and strengthen the coal industry by scrapping the deal. He has filled his cabinet with all climate change deniers, with a few exceptions.

Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier and close friend to the fossil fuel industry, for instance, was appointed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—an organisation he has long opposed. EPA has since taken some astonishing measures including removal of climate science websites, containing detailed climate data and scientific information.

In fact, the president himself is skeptical of man-made climate change, insinuating that global warming is a hoax. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” he once tweeted. He also voiced support for Keystone pipeline and drilling off the Atlantic coast, which will result in irreparable damage to the global environment.

“Trump's election is a triumph of climate denial,” Clare Foran, associate editor at The Atlantic, declares. However, she also points out that his views are no different than that of prominent elected officials of the Republican Party. The election was also far from a referendum on global warming, as the issue hardly surfaced in the presidential debates and was rated among the least serious concerns by the voters.

Trump, therefore, doesn't have any incentives to honour the Paris deal, which promised to reduce carbon emissions. If he really ends up withdrawing from the accord, it will be difficult for the deal to achieve its goal because the US is the second largest carbon emitter after China. In addition, a withdrawal by the US will encourage other countries to follow its footmark. While other big emitters like China and India pledge to keep up their end of the bargain, America's exit will lessen the significance of the treaty.

A US withdrawal will also hurt Bangladesh's prospect of getting finances to combat the disastrous climate change effects, as we are among the most imperiled victims of the phenomenon. While the Paris accord notably avoided any mention of compensation or liability, it does acknowledge the need for “averting, minimising, and addressing loss and damage” of the worst affected countries, like Bangladesh. Within the framework of the deal, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was set up to expectedly channel additional financial resources to worst affected countries. An $80 million project financed by GCF, Germany and Bangladesh is already being implemented in Bangladesh, with a second Bangladeshi project proposal being considered.

The fund targeted to raise a massive $100 billion per year by 2020, but only $10.3 billion has been pledged so far.  Nonetheless, contribution from the US is one of the main sources of its financing. However, Saleemul Huq, an internationally renowned climate change expert, says, “it is far better” for the US to withdraw. “The US actions both at home and the fund contributions have already been halted even without their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” he argues. “Hence, the only consequence for the rest of the world if the US stays in it is a very negative one of having to fight them on every little issue in the negotiations, as they will inevitably try to hold back all our actions.”

The move also risks leaving America isolated, leading the State Department to lobby in support of the deal. Trump's reluctance to stick to the obligation at the G7 Summit has already irritated his allies, with influential German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying, “The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying.” Trump will also be rebuked in his own country, as New York and California have already promised to combat climate change without help from the Trump administration. So, a shred of hope still remains.

Nazmul Ahasan is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at nazmulahasan@live.com.

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