Could the next U.S. President undermine the Paris climate change agreement?

Could the next U.S. President undermine the Paris climate change agreement?

While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been campaigning hard to see which one of them will become the 45th President of the United States, a number of key milestones have been reached on the Paris climate change agreement.

Firstly, four of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world, the United States, China, India and the European Union have ratified the agreement.

Secondly, on 5 October 2016, the double threshold condition of the Paris climate change agreement (55 countries that between them produce at least 55% of global GHG emissions) was met. Meaning the UN Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement, will come into force on 4 November 2016.

Key points of the Paris agreement:

  • To keep global temperature increases well below 2 °C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C
  • For countries to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the 21st century
  • To review progress of the agreement every five years
  • For more affluent countries to provide 100 billion dollars a year in climate finance to help developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future
  • Once the agreement comes into force, countries that have ratified it will have to wait for a minimum of three years before they exit the agreement.

Impact of the U.S. Elections on the Paris agreement

The outcome of the U.S. election could have a significant impact on how successful the Paris climate change agreement is over the next four years.

Laurent Fabius, the former French foreign minister who presided over the Paris talks said earlier this year. “Think about the impact of the coming US presidential elections,” he urged. “If a climate change denier was to be elected, it would threaten dramatically global action against climate disruption.”
The two U.S. presidential candidates have taken very different positions on the Paris climate change agreement.

Hillary Clinton has backed President Obama’s decision to sign the Paris climate change agreement.
“I’m proud that we shaped a global climate agreement – now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves,” Hillary Clinton said at the Democrat National Convention in July 2016.

Donald Trump on the other hand has said he would not abide by the Paris climate change agreement, as it would adversely affect American jobs.

“Any regulation that’s outdated, unnecessary, and bad for workers or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped and scrapped completely,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump has also stated that if he wins the U.S. presidency he would order the cancellation of all payments to UN climate change programmes and redeploy those funds to fix U.S. infrastructure in his first 100 days of office.

Donald Trump’s rhetoric over the past few weeks has even moved China to enter the fray of the U.S. elections. In what has been described as a rare intervention by China, their chief climate change negotiator told Reuters , “I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform to global trends,” Xie Zhenhua said.

The race to the White House therefore takes on added importance this time around because a proud nation is not only electing a President next week. They are also electing a world leader that will shape the future of global climate change policy for years to come.

Author

Michael Fuller is a freelance management consultant with over 20 years’ experience in industry. His clients include Transco, Centrica, Birmingham City Council, Barclays, Mercedes and Honda. He holds a master’s degree in Climate Change & Sustainable Development from IESD based in Leicester and is a member of the Energy Institute. He is passionate about the sustainable future of our planet and is keen to promote a cleaner and healthier environment for our children. His professional interests include renewable energy and sustainable transport.

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