The Politics of the Paris Agreement
Last week it was announced that Donald Trump will be pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. We have been talking to Honor and Georgia, our Policy Officers, about what this decision means for the US.
We continue the conversation by talking about the effect of this decision internationally.
Georgia: Taking the conversation about the Paris Agreement out of the US domestic sphere and looking more internationally: obviously the US has been a cultural, economic superpower in recent history. In the context of Donald Trump’s turn towards isolationism and protectionism, do you think we are going to see a re-balancing of the international system, especially when it comes to working towards a green economy? And who do you think will step in to fill that gap?
Honor: I think that this decision by President Trump is creating an opportunity for other leaders to emerge on the global stage, and to really dominate in terms of climate change. China is the most obvious leader. When you compare it with the Kyoto Agreement in 1997, you have now got a different situation where China is leading on climate change. President Jinping, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron and other EU leaders have come out today and made a fairly strong statement condemning Trump’s decision.
The other side of it is that it actually creates space for nations to wonder whether they are able to extract themselves from the Paris Agreement. When the US makes it clear that it isn’t a binding commitment and that it is up for political renegotiation, it makes it possible for other nations to do that also. So holding together that coalition will become more and more of a challenge and is something that there will need to be global leadership from the EU and from China to achieve.
It is now up to every nation, including Britain, to make a strong commitment to the Paris Agreement and to recommit to those decisions; and also to hold Donald Trump to account for making this rash and mistaken move.
Georgia: It is interesting thinking about the renewed role of the European Union as a climate leader and to see which side Britain will now align itself.
Honor: The shifting geo-political alliances are really coming into play with this decision and you can see it happening at a very fast speed.
Georgia: It certainly feels like the sands are shifting very quickly. It will be interesting to see how it will unfold. Obviously, there are concerns for the environment and the way that the environment may become a victim of these changes in geopolitical positions. From this discussion, and the commentary that has come out of Donald Trump’s decision, it certainly seems like, in terms of the geopolitical, America is more likely to be the loser here than the rest of the world.
Honor: Yes, that is true, but the US is still the second larger contributor to greenhouse gas admissions. Without the US participation in the Paris Agreement, there will need to be even greater commitment from the other nations if we’re to meet the target of limiting and reducing emissions. But at the same time, I think you are right. There is a possibility that if all other nations come together, and really do commit fully to meeting the targets, there will be a perceptible benefit to the United States whether they are signed up or not. The US can merely free-ride whilst all the other nations of the world commit to reducing their emissions and the US continue practising business as usual.
Georgia: We will see. It seems like the UK needs to assert itself wisely. At this juncture, the UK need to be firm in picking the winning team.
Honor: Especially on something so important. This is a long-term decision that will have devastating impacts if people don’t address climate change immediately. It is not something to play political football with.