Trump poised to quit Paris climate deal

Hope dashed? The Eiffel Tower was lit up to celebrate the agreement in 2015. © Getty

Donald Trump is set to fulfil his promise of pulling the USA out of the Paris climate accord. Some are calling it a “terminal blow” for conservation. What does all this mean?

Five days ago Donald Trump tweeted “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”

And now it is becoming clear, thanks to three officials with knowledge of the decision, that he will be true to his word and pull the world’s largest economy out of the first agreement to unite almost the whole world in tackling climate change.

At the summit, four major tasks were agreed: to keep global warming (the rise in global temperature) “well below” 2ºC, aiming for 1.5ºC; to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity; to review every five years each country’s contribution to cutting emissions; and to enable rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

But Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax”, has sided with hardliners like Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, who believes the deal would harm the US economy and Trump’s energy agenda, which includes reopening coal mines. It is a defeat for moderates like Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who feared that withdrawing would damage America’s foreign relations.

Writing for CNN, former Republican candidate Ted Cruz slammed the agreement for doing nothing to “meaningfully decrease global temperatures”, adding that it actually allowed some countries to increase their emissions.

Trump’s opponents have condemned the move. Ed Markey, a Democratic senator, tweeted that it is “a massive moral, economic & leadership failure for the administration”.

But the biggest worry is not how it will reflect on Trump, but whether it will be a setback for the fight against climate change. The Obama administration played a central role in pushing provisions which require transparent oversight of how emissions are monitored and reported.

In particular, there have been questions over the accuracy of emissions reporting in China, the world’s largest polluter. But China’s leader, Xi Jinping, says he remains committed to “protecting the achievements of global governance, including the Paris agreement”.

Climate of fear

This is an enormous blow to the conservation movement, say some. The USA has the cultural power to set the narrative on climate change. And if the US leader values short-term economic gain over a danger the existence of which he denies, the world is severely weakened in its ability to tackle this great issue.

But others can fill the void. The European Commission vice president, Maros Sefcovic, has called the decision “disappointing”, but says: “I really do not think this would change the course of mankind. There is a much stronger expectation that Europe should assume leadership in this effort and we are ready to do that.”

You Decide

  1. Is Trump right to pull out of the Paris climate deal?
  2. Will Trump’s decision have an effect on the global fight against climate change?

Activities

  1. Design a billboard advertisement encouraging ordinary people to help in the fight against climate change.
  2. Write a letter to the leader of your country explaining what you would like them to do about climate change.

Some People Say...

“Governments won’t solve climate change — businesses will.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That, according to three US officials, Donald Trump is set to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, though others among his advisers urge him to stay in. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to take America out of the agreement, but some suspected he might fail to fulfil the pledge. We know that leaders of major European Union countries are now looking to step in and take on the role left by the USA.
What do we not know?
When or how the administration plans to pull out of the climate agreement. A four-year period is required to quit the Paris deal but by pulling out of the UN’s climate body — the UNFCCC — the USA could extricate itself in one year. Pulling out of the UNFCCC would be a significant move, given that America signed up to it in 1992.

Word Watch

Almost the whole world
Every UN member bar Syria and Nicaragua, who abstained, signed the deal that took 13 days to negotiate.
Hoax
In December 2013, Trump tweeted: “We should be focused on clean and beautiful air - not expensive and business closing GLOBAL WARMING - a total hoax!”
Ted Cruz
Cruz rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, saying: “The scientific evidence doesn’t support global warming.” He has attacked the term “climate change denier” as a way of ostracising those with differing views.
The world’s largest polluter
According to figures for 2015 published in 2016 by the European Commission Joint Research Centre: China is responsible for 29.5% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Making up the rest of the top ten are the US (14.3%), India (6.8%), Russia (4.9%), Japan (3.5%), Germany (2.1%), Iran (1.8%), South Korea (1.7%), Canada (1.5%) and Saudi Arabia (1.4%).
Xi Jinping
Xi said these words in a telephone call with Emmanuel Macron, the newly-elected president of France.

Subjects

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