News Analysis: Huge setback for global efforts against climate change as U.S. quits Paris Agreement

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-02 06:42:23|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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WASHINGTON, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Global efforts against climate change suffered a huge setback on Thursday as U.S. President Donald Trump announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a worldwide deal meant to curb global warming.

"As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country," Trump said in a White House Rose Garden announcement.

The decision, denounced by environmentalists as "a reckless and foolish mistake," should come as no surprise to the world as Trump, who has called climate change "a hoax," has pledged to do so during the presidential campaign, as part of an effort to bolster U.S. oil and coal industries.


When asked about his first reaction, Roger-Mark De Souza, director of population, environmental security, and resilience at the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said this means that "the United States will further isolate itself from international collaboration and cooperation on multiple fronts."

"It will affect U.S. security, the provision of jobs, U.S. business operations, and U.S. diplomatic efforts," De Souza told Xinhua, noting that it will also be harder for U.S. states and cities, which he described as "centers of innovation, resilience and prosperity," to fight climate change without overall U.S. government support.

He also predicted that it could "potentially lead to colder relations with well-established partners" for the United States.

At last week's Group of Seven summit in Italy, Trump showed his willingness to leave as he was the only leader who refused to back the landmark international agreement reached in Paris in 2015, which seeks to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

In the opinion of Kelly Sims Gallagher, professor of energy and environmental policy at the Tufts University, the image the Trump administration portrays is "a lack of trustworthiness."

"If new presidents do not honor the commitments of previous presidents when a super-majority of Americans support those commitments, then it makes it more difficult for other countries to trust them in new negotiations," lamented Gallagher, a former climate and energy adviser to President Barack Obama.

"He (Trump) will be remembered in history as neglecting his responsibility to future generations," she continued. "He will also pay the price in the next election because polls consistently show that more than two-thirds of Americans want him to participate in the Paris Agreement."


Trump's decision is ominously reminiscent of the U.S. exit from the Kyoto Protocol, a forerunner to the Paris Agreement, in 2001 under George Bush's leadership. Several other developed countries including Canada followed suit.

John Sterman, professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, did see the possibility that a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement leads to "a cascade of defections from Paris" or "risks initiating a cascade of goal erosion that could unravel the agreement."

"U.S. withdrawal from Paris creates uncertainty for businesses and governments around the world about investment opportunities in the solar, wind and other emerging green energy industries around the world, including in China," Sterman told Xinhua.

U.S. cutback on contributions to the Green Climate Fund established in 2010 at the Cancun COP (Conference of the Parties) means that "developing nations will be unable to fund the investment in renewable energy they need to leapfrog the harmful fossil economy," he said.

Ellie Johnston, who leads climate and energy efforts at Climate Interactive, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., echoed similar views, stating that although most major countries have emphasized their commitment to the Paris Agreement regardless of what the U.S. does, "there may be reluctance to put forward stronger pledges if the U.S. is not doing its part."


As the world's largest economy and the second largest greenhouse gas polluter, the U.S. matters a great deal.

An analysis conducted by Sterman and Johnston showed that the U.S. emissions reduction pledge under the Paris Agreement would account for 21 percent of all emissions avoided through 2030.

Therefore, it's unrealistic for other countries, including China, to fill the void in emission reductions left by the Trump administration, said Zhang Junjie, an environmental expert from the Duke Kunshan University.

Zhang said that China, as a responsible large developing country, is certain to do more, but when it comes to climate leadership, China should be careful about such lavish praise.

On its part, China reiterated on Thursday that it will continue its implementation of the Paris Agreement and positively participate in the multilateral process of global climate governance.

In any event, just as De Souza said, the Paris Agreement represented an unprecedented moment for a collective climate action plan.

"Because of the way that it is structured -- with each country determining the best way for it to decarbonize and to revisit its progress in five year intervals -- countries have the flexibility to be aspirational and inspirational," he said. "I anticipate that this momentum will continue."