What does the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement mean?

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was heralded as a momentous step forward in global citizenship. It seemed that many diverse and sometimes hostile forces and disciplines, including religion and science, had found a common cause – the wellbeing of the planet and its protection for future generations.  

The leadership of the USA, under President Obama, in championing the agreement was key in securing the support of almost every country on earth. Tragically, his successor, has now pulled the USA out of the Paris Agreement.

President Trump has described Climate Change as ‘a Hoax’, peddled by the Chinese to hurt US industry. He has consistently ignored the fact that the vast majority of the global scientific community are in agreement that immediate corrective steps must be taken for the sake of humanity’s future.

Now that President Trump has signed an Executive Order, withdrawing the USA from the Paris Agreement, quoting his inaugural mantra ‘America First’, a big pushback is set to happen, both globally and within the USA.

The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, on June 1st, publicly stated that should the Trump Administration withdraw, he would sign an Executive Order reaffirming New York City’s on-going commitment to the historic Agreement. Over 70 Mayors from across the USA, including the Mayors of Boston, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco, have indicated their commitment to a clean energy future, irrespective of the US President’s reckless actions. They are also supported by many US corporations.

Former President Barack Obama and Vice-President Al Gore issued immediate statements which can be viewed by clicking on their names below. Statements by Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, issued on behalf of The Elders, can also be viewed by clicking on their names. The global internet campaigning organisation AVAAZ has started a petition aimed at encouraging the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to take a strong stand at the forthcoming G20 Summit in Germany, which President Trump will attend.  The petition can be viewed by clicking on AVAAZ below.

Former President Barack Obama

Former US Vice-President and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore

The Elders: Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, Gro Harlem Brundtland

AVAAZ

President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, continues the worrying erosion of the USA’s positive influence in global affairs. Ironically, the government of China, despite President Trump’s claim that global warming is a Chinese hoax, may, in time, eclipse the USA as a primary advocate for Climate Justice. 

In the wake of this tragic day in world affairs, the Society of African Missions reaffirms our commitment to Climate Justice. We will do this especially for the sake of Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable people, through the extension of our Thumbprint Campaign. And, we know, tens of thousands of other civil society organisations around the world will be emboldened and galvanised, knowing that, as the great Teresa of Avila assured us: “All things pass away…”

And some Good News From

Ireland’s Climate Justice Movement:

On Wednesday, 31 May 2017, Dáil Eireann passed an on-shore fracking ban. It is seen as a great victory for local campaigners and an historic move which also boosts the global climate movement.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Ireland’s Deputy Director, Kate Ruddock, said:

“This ban is a great victory for the local campaigners who have mobilized and educated themselves, their communities and their elected representatives on the threat fracking poses to local water, regional employment and global climate. It’s a real honour for us to work alongside them to progress this Bill in parliament. 

“It’s also a victory for the global climate movement. All around the world communities are campaigning to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to put citizens at the heart of a new, clean, healthy energy system. This victory is a tribute to their solidarity and is a shot in the arm for our common cause of a fossil free future.

“The passage of the Bill also shows that ‘new politics’, where the Irish government no longer has a majority in parliament, can produce progressive results when deputies from all parties and none work with each other and those who elect them to tackle the challenges we face. We salute all those TDs who have worked to progress and improve this Bill, in particular Tony McLoughlin who has sponsored this Bill for the last year, and Minister Naughten who swung his Cabinet colleagues in behind the Bill. It is the first private member’s Bill passed by this Dáil.

“Ireland has a reputation as a climate laggard and too often our lack of climate action is a cause of embarrassment internationally, but today we can be proud of our parliament for putting Ireland in the vanguard of the movement to ban fracking.”

The Bill now moves to the Senate and is expected to become law before the summer break.

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Below the SMA Communications Office has reproduced a Q&A from the Examiner (1 June 2017), which considers the possible impact of the US withdrawal from the Parish Agreement.

What is the Paris Agreement?

It is a global deal, agreed under the United Nations in the French capital in December 2015, which will see action by all countries to curb rising temperatures.

Why do we need it?

If we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on current trajectories, we are facing a world with temperatures of more than 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, hotter globally than at any time in human history.

This will lead to sea level rises, more intense storms and flooding, more extreme droughts, water shortages and heatwaves as well as massive loss of wildlife and reduction in crop yields, potentially sparking conflict and mass migration.

The higher temperatures rise, the worse the situation will be so we need to halt the emissions that cause global warming.

What does the agreement involve?

The Paris Agreement commits countries to take action to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to keep them to 1.5C, which requires emissions to be cut to net zero by the second half of the century.

Current climate plans by countries are not enough to meet the targets so there is a five-year review and ratchet mechanism to increase ambition, and finance for poor countries to develop along a low-carbon path and to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Why is Donald Trump expected to pull out of the deal?

Then president Barack Obama signed up to the deal, without ratification by the US Senate, last year.

In pulling out Trump, who has described climate change as a hoax by the Chinese to hurt US manufacturing, would be honouring a pledge made on the campaign trail to quit Paris and boost fossil fuel production at home.

Would the move be popular in the US?

The move will certainly be hailed in some quarters, with a strong vein of climate scepticism in parts of the establishment and among some of Trump’s supporters.

But surveys show the majority of Americans want to stay in the accord, solar jobs are booming and US entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk are driving forward clean tech.

Even major oil companies have urged the US to stay in.

States such as California have already pledged to continue action to cut their emissions regardless of what the president does.

What is the mechanism for quitting?

A country can serve notice it is quitting the deal three years after it came into force for them, and it then takes another year to leave.

It would also be possible for the US not to formally leave but simply refuse to meet its commitments, which are voluntary for countries.

What would the US quitting the agreement mean?

The USA has agreed to reduce its emissions by 2025 to 26-28% of 2005 levels, about 1.6 billion tonnes.

There are concerns that the failure of the world’s second biggest polluter to honour its commitments will make it harder for the world to curb temperature rises to well below 2C.

On the global stage, it would undermine the overwhelming consensus achieved in Paris to take action on climate change, with only Syria and Nicaragua not signed up to the agreement, and raises fears other countries may back slide on their commitments.

How likely is that?

If Trump withdraws from Paris, it will hardly come as a surprise, and so far countries are holding the line.

Of the other industrialised nations, only Russia has not yet ratified the deal, and China and India are pushing ahead with curbing coal power and boosting renewables and electric vehicles.

The EU and China are set to announce deeper commitment to climate action after a summit on Friday.

With falling prices of clean technology, some analysts say the switch to a low carbon world is already unstoppable, and countries which fail to take advantage of the shift will lose out.