Within hours of the US President Donald Trump formally notifying, in Washington, to the United Nations that his country was withdrawing from the Paris Accord, the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement in Shanghai that mentions the ‘irreversibility’ of the climate accord. While both regretted the US action they said ‘this only makes Franco-Chinese partnership on the climate and biodiversity all the more necessary.’
An expert on energy and environment said that while China was a major polluter it was keeping up with its self-imposed targets in the Paris accord.
‘Although China is the biggest burner of coal today — in historic terms, the US is the biggest contributor to climate change — it is also the biggest investor in solar technology,’ he pointed out. ‘China is committed to peaking their emissions then reducing over the next 10 years and we want to see if they can bring that forward.’
Some of the biggest polluters are Australia, Canada, and Venezuela. which are something of the order of 4.5 tonnes per capita whereas Europe the average is something like 7 tonnes.
‘The problem still is that high emitters are developed countries and poor countries are those with very low emissions and when we break that link we really can believe that we’re some way to solving this problem.’
Macron spoke at the trade fair in Shanghai of the cooperation between the EU and China which was ‘decisive’ and urged for these commitments to be ‘enhanced’. ‘If we want to be in compliance with the Paris Agreement, we will need next year to enhance our commitments to reduce emissions, and we must confirm new commitments for 2030 and 2050,’ he said.
With the US formally notifying the UN it was withdrawing from the climate accord, the world's largest economy has become the sole outlier from the agreement. Unruffled, Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change, with September the fourth month in a row with record-breaking temperatures in the US.
Significantly, it will be officially out of the accord on November 4, 2020, one day after the US election in which Trump is seeking a second term. His Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump's remarks in 2017 that the agreement imposed an 'unfair economic burden' on the US.
'The US approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossils fuels, nuclear energy and renewable energy,' Pompeo said.
Despite this US still plans to attend this month's COP climate negotiations in Spain, said a State Department official. Pledging to pursue a 'realistic and pragmatic model' Mr. Pompeo pointed to a 13 percent US reduction of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change from 2005 to 2017 even as the economy grew.
He said a number of states, notably California and New York, have taken the lead in fighting climate change in the face of hostility by Trump. Major countries have expressed concern after the Trump pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change.
The Paris accord, on December 12, 2015, was a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. It built upon the Convention and has brought all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries. In short it was the beginning of charting a new course in the global climate effort.
The agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees. It also aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and at making finance flows consistent with a low emissions and climate-resilient pathway. To reach these goals, appropriate mobilization and provision of financial resources, a new technology framework and enhanced capacity-building is to be put in place. The agreement opened for signature on April 22, 2016 – Earth Day – at UN Headquarters in New York and came into force on November 4, 2016, 30 days after the so-called ‘double threshold’ (ratification by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions) had been met.
More countries have ratified since then and continue to ratify the Agreement, reaching a total of 125 parties till early 2017.
(The facts and views in the article are those of the writer. )