Silver Lining in the Climate Agreement

The Protests at the 2017 G20 Summit, Hamburg were more so than not, a reflection to the proceedings of the recently concluded Paris Climate Summit and it was quite evident that the sole agenda this time was to clear up the mess created by President Donald Trump. Every summit, analyst, and world meet is trying to predict and calculate the extent of damage this will do the planet, international relations and global politics in the long run causing a string of sleepless nights for a lot of us. Although these implications can be found in almost every news article and magazine, there is also a silver lining attached to the decision which quite frankly, we are failing to observe. And as a self-proclaimed skeptic, I feel it is my duty to address this urgent issue to the public and to be honest, that’s exactly what skeptics do. We panic in peace and make hay while the sun sets.

Paris Climate Agreement: The Roadblock to American Progress ?

Before diving into the article let’s first dive into some details of climate summit to point out how, and in what ways Donald Trump could have actually ruined the situation by staying in the agreement meanwhile gathering some basic points about the Agreement.

  1. The climate agreement signatories “Voluntarily” choose the amount of cut they’ll make into their carbon emission. While they need to be ambitious, there is no compulsion. You can actually be a signatory and increase your CO2 output. (China is to peak its emissions by 2030)
  2. There is wording to set up a global carbon trading market in order for countries to make money by getting ahead of their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) and selling carbon credits. (You can practically buy your Carbon Credits).
  3. There is a “Sustainable Development Mechanism” meant to support environmentally sustainable economic development. However, there is not yet any structure or process. In essence, it doesn’t yet represent anything, and it will be hashed out later.
  4. The only really concrete thing in the agreement is the “Green Climate Fund,” where the developed countries in the agreement committed to contribute $100 billion per year to developing nations between the years of 2020 and 2025 for climate change mitigation (reducing CO2) and adaptation (dealing with the impact of climate change).
  5. There are no enforcement mechanisms. The only binding commitment is the 5-year reporting requirement. Everything else is completely voluntary.

Trump made the case in his speech announcing the withdrawal that staying in Paris would have cost the US economy trillions of dollars and millions of jobs, and that it was unfair to the US to be sending billions of dollars overseas to developing nations but actually he could have still done everything that he plans to do now, and still be in the Paris agreement and there was nothing anyone could have done. But ultimately, he followed his gut and now we seem to have yet another problem to deal with but surprisingly enough, this time the have actually benefitted more than damaged the global situation on Climate Change.
What is even more surprising is that given general DC dysfunction, Trump probably could have gotten away with quietly stonewalling any direct policy to reduce CO2 emissions, and not put the Green Climate Fund numbers into his budget or just alter US’s NDC reduction target and Green Climate Fund contribution.It is really a puzzle to me as to why one would take a major-and unpopular-announcement when he could have quietly ignored it without any direct repercussions. Given the fact that he cares more about his image and popularity than the climate, and has realised the unpopularity of this decision among his own voters, it is less surprising that the news flashed “Trump hinting on changing his stance on the accord on his visit to Paris” while I was just preparing my final draft.

Implications

Trump’s decision, in an ideal world, could severely undermine the pace of summit, discouraging other countries from meeting their own commitments too, and encouraging energy-hungry countries such as China and India to relentlessly put their requirements above any other promises made before. But we should not forget that the switch to clean energy and the ground zero changes have already started and now it is more about diplomatic stance than an actual commitment. If anything, the US backing out has rather provided a much-required stimulus to the ongoing efforts towards climate change. It has provided Climate Change, the seriousness and urgency it required from the global leaders. A clear example would be the G20 Summit, where the Climate Change was the center of media attention despite 2017 being a year which saw some major terrorist attacks, the still-urgent European migrant crisis, and a clear volatility in the North Korea.

Secondly, withdrawal from Paris will cede new markets, industries, and leadership on everything, from international trade to geopolitics, to the next Leader. Consequently, Starting a new race to become the global leader on the climate front, a chance no major economy would like to lose. That could be costly in ways the Trump Administration had not anticipated.

ChinaIndiaCarbonChart529px

In fact, even until now some statistics show India and China to be massively overachieving while quipping Germany and France with appreciators (for their efforts in both Paris and G20 summits) from all over the world.

According to Niklas Höhne, a climate expert in The Netherlands and the founder of NewClimate Institute, a research organization, “The positive effects in China and India are far larger than the negative impacts coming out of the United States”.

Today, entire regions across India are seeking 100 percent renewable power. India’s new plans for meeting future energy needs now call for far fewer coal-fired plants. China, too, is shuttering coal facilities. Coal consumption there has dropped three years in a row. In both countries, the changes appear likely to slow emissions growth by 2030 far more than projected during the Paris talks.

Thirdly, the decision has come as a welcome change from the part of State governments of the US which were largely defunct since the last decade and now this pullout may be inadvertently Making the States’ Rights Great Again. Fully 69% of Americans supported staying in the Paris Agreement, with only 13% against. 51% of Republicans wanted to stay in, vs only 26% that wanted to leave. Even in the coal-centric West Virginia, 52% of Americans wanted to stay. This is a level of agreement that’s incredibly rare in current American politics. The move to leave is, simply put, very unpopular. This has rather made the States all so more powerful as about 18-20 states have already set emission reduction targets for themselves making the US capital loosen its grip over the country.

la-na-g-pol-paris-states-20170602

 

The Actual Stimulus

Whether anyone likes it or not but the inevitable truth is that there was actually nothing that Trump or Oil Riches could do to stop the shift from coal to clean energy because, at the end of the day, the invisible hand drives this world where solar and wind are now so competitive that they are even crowding out coal in some countries.

800x-1

While coal is still the dominant force in the energy sector but the renewables are catching up to them at Godspeed (Pun Intended). The pace is quickening because the transition is now driven by economics, not just politics. Most companies have responded positively to the agreement and this coupled with governments’ efforts have drastically reduced the effort and price of investing in renewables around the globe.

5 years ago, this same decision would’ve had disastrous effects maybe but now, the ball is set rolling. The efforts made by the leaders are having fruitful effects. Definitely, we still need much more conscious efforts to achieve the 2°C target but this is nonetheless a great start that has a conscious and personal(not just Facebook likes) youth participation and that is enough for me to get a sound sleep tonight.

References & Citations

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5 thoughts on “Silver Lining in the Climate Agreement

  1. Well defined the strategy of USA . Research on the subject makes it beautifully written and informative!!!

    Like

  2. Amazingly vivid source of information. Shows commendable depth of analysis. Looking forward to more such knowledgeable articles…

    Like

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