In the wake of the newly elected President of the United States – Donald Trump on November 9, 2016, a major fraction of the world populace covering a large spectrum of people awoke to a dwindling future. They are those who have come to terms with the fact that climate change is real and human activities emanating from the industrial revolution is also responsible for global warming.
Success in and after Paris
The Paris Agreement remains a historical accomplishment as far as international development is concerned. World leaders and climate negotiators accepted the vision to peg global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels while working towards reducing temperature increase to “1.5°C.” As at September 2016, there have been great signals to proof that the dedication to the Paris agreement is beyond mere rhetoric.
The full effect of the Paris agreement counts on ratification by a minimum of 55 parties to the Untied Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These 55 parties represent 55 percent of the entire global emissions. As at September 2016, the United Nations had received 27 ratifications which amount to about 39% of global emissions including both United States and China that represents world’s top two global polluters. By October 2, India already became the 62nd nation to ratify the Paris agreement which places the total global emissions of committed nations to 51.89%. In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol which took eight years to take effect, after over 190 countries agreed in Paris to cut their emissions, over 90 countries ratified the agreement in a space of one year.
According to David Nabarro (Ban Ki-moon’s special advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) – “When we start to look at the countries that are joining the… agreement and the countries that are going to commit to join before the end of the year, we are absolutely certain that we will have the Paris Agreement on climate change entering into force by the end of 2016.” This further proves a strong resolve and positive steps stakeholders are making to concretize the Paris agreement.
And now in Morocco
One must not discount the pivotal role Marrakech’s COP22 will play to advance the success in COP21 at Paris. Salient issues must be tackled and decided upon such as Carbon accounting, Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and Finance.
Negotiators would have to agree upon measuring standards and feasible milestones at national levels to enact their emission reduction plans. If Paris is indeed a ‘game changer’, Marrakech will be the ‘game propeller’.
The stance of the United States
Should the world be bothered about Trump’s presidency especially as it relates to the future of global environmental sustainability? Trump already made clear his position on climate change with his perception of Global Warming – “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” While Hillary Clinton highlighted “Protecting animals and wildlife” and “climate change” as major fabrics on her campaign website, the environment didn’t surface as a major topic on Trump’s website.
The Obama administration was not only pivotal to steering the wheel that led to a fruitful Paris Agreement, the U.S. also committed to cutting down its emissions to about 28 percent below 2005 levels by the end of 2025. The Clean Power Plan tops as one of Obama’s landmark achievement in relation to the Paris agreement. The energy plan is to cut power plant emissions in the United States by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. There is a major caveat to this though; strong policies and implementation strategies must be granted through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Suffice it to say that the EPA is at the core of making this ambitious target a reality by shifting investments into renewable energy sources while shutting down coal power plants across the country. This is at the point where political will comes into full play.
Furthermore, the place of finance cannot be overemphasized in the global efforts to achieve environmental sustainability. This notion stimulated the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which emanated from the discussions in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009. At the core of the GCF lies the commitment of developing countries to identify goals and targets to reduce their carbon emissions. The Fund will leverage on global finance schematics to finance programs and projects that have great potential to reduce pollution and foster adaptation to climate change impacts across the world. Elements associated with the bureaucratic status of the United Nations have been duly considered in this fund by making it an independent legal entity. In November 2014, President Obama announced a $3billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund to buttress the commitment of the United States to support developing countries especially the vulnerable and poorest. By March 2016, Obama had made good on his promise by paying a first installment of $500 million from the $3 billion Green Climate Fund dollars pledge.
The United States is not alien to such leadership gestures when it comes to supporting climate change interventions. Obama’s predecessor, George Bush made a pledge of $2 billion to Climate Investment Funds in 2008.
Trump and Climate
With Donald Trump’s entry into the oval office, the question begging for answer is – what will be the future of the global climate agreement as far as the US is concerned?
There is no gainsaying the United States’ role in diplomacy, finance and policies will have a drawback effect on the world at large should President –Elect Donald Trump maintain his stance that “Climate Change is a hoax”.
There is also a need to be concerned about the decisions that will start emanating from the Oval office on issues relating to climate change from January, 2017 after Trump resumes office fully. Should the Clean Power Plan be impeded by the Supreme Court, the United States would fall short of her commitment to the Paris Agreement. This failure of the US could also discourage other global major emitters and developing nations. An aftermath of the failure could result into giving other nations another flying excuse to have a slack hand in following through on their various pledges.
Reasons to worry and hope
While the world sits on the edge to see where the new leader of the free world would tilt in the climate change discourse, there is cause to worry a bit and prepare for ‘the worst’ as far as policies in the Unites States is concerned. Let’s start by taking a little digression from Donald Trump’s perception on climate change. The appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s Chief Strategist also triggers a pessimistic look towards the end game of climate change discussions and environmental sustainability implementation plans in the United States. Bannon has been known to push extreme views through the Brietbart News (where he serves as Executive Chairman) to propagate climate change hoax theories and renewable energy as a scam. The combination of both Donald Trump and Steve Bannon is really strong enough to cause dents in the policies that will govern environmental governance if their current stance or perception on climate change is maintained.
Nevertheless, there is an anchor of hope to hold on to.
According to the outgoing Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, he argues that action on climate change has become “unstoppable”. Mr. Ban also thinks he can tap into Trump’s enterprising mind to re-consider by stating companies (such as General Mills and Kellogg) and States (such as Washington, Nashville and Las Vegas) that were already working to reduce their carbon footprints. He hopes that “Trump would understand, listen and evaluate his campaign remarks with respect to severity and urgency of addressing climate change “.
Secretary of State John Kerry in his speech in Marrakech assured that the fight to maintain the commitment of the United States to the Paris agreement continues after Obama’s administration. In his words “This is bigger than one person, one president.”
Addressing the incoming President in his speech, Kerry appealed that Trump gives listening ears to religious leaders, military chiefs, businessmen, activists and above all – climate scientists before neglecting fate of future generations to climate change impacts.
In conclusion, there could be another major reason to be hopeful that the Trump administration would take a new insight into issues regarding climate change and the environment. Donald Trump has actually shown that he has listening ears. After few days of emerging as the next President of the United States, Donald Trump is now considering building a fence rather than a big beautiful and massive wall between the U.S and Mexico. This is worth emphasizing because it shows that nothing is cast in stone yet even regarding environmental sustainability. Who knows, rather than dismantle the Paris Agreement, ignore scientific evidences, we could have a world leader who might end up setting the pace in advancing renewable energy projects and investing more in environmental scientific research.
A turn-around that will make the world not a safer place but preserve future generations. As the Conference of Parties (COP22) ends today in Marrakech, Morocco, it’s time again to use the power of hindsight, insight and foresight to take actions aligned with the sustainable future we envision.
Photo credit: USATODAY and Global Environment Facility (GEF) With Trump, how will the US and the rest of the world cope after COP22?