The Paris Agreement – The next phase of climate action in the U.S.

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The Paris Agreement – The next phase of climate action in the U.S.

This week we witnessed the US officially leaving the Paris Agreement. As we continue to await the results of the US election, the implications of the years of President Trump continue to have an impact. 

From the 4th of November, the US officially departed from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It was exactly a year ago that the Trump administration informed the United Nations of its intentions to leave the agreement after the mandatory one-year waiting period. It was an implemented measure to ensure no country could end the agreement within the first three years. President Trump confirmed his intention to withdraw in 2017, explaining that he was putting an end to what he referred to as the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.

At present, the US is the only nation to withdraw from the global agreement. The nation will still be able to attend negotiations and give its insight but will be assigned with observer status. The Paris Accord is focused on avoiding the impacts of climate change by significantly reducing global emissions. Each nation has announced their own goals to try and reduce global temperature rises, which intends to stay considerably lower than 2 degrees celsius and work towards limiting heating to a rather ambitious target of 1.5 degrees celsius.

The impacts of the climate crisis are being seen all around us: damaging wildfires, heat-waves, rising sea levels and a rise in extreme weather conditions. The US has experienced unprecedented wildfires along the west coast, and an increase in damaging hurricanes and flooding. As the US exits from the agreement, China has indicated that it will increase its efforts in climate action. President Xi Jinping stated at the UN General Assembly this year that China intends to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and intends the country to reach peak carbon emissions before the end of this decade.

According to the Global Carbon Project, the US generated approximately 14% of total global carbon emissions in 2019, compared to 26% in China, 9% in the EU and 7% in India. The latest National Climate Assessment delivered by the federal government stated that climate change presents several new risks and accelerates the current vulnerabilities in certain regions across the United States, resulting in rising challenges to our health, safety, quality of life and overall level of economic development.

 

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for the G20 suggested that climate policy enhances growth and employment. The report indicated that G20 nations could experience a 5% rise in growth by the 2050s by implementing carbon reduction strategies and climate resilience.

Before the withdrawal, President Trump often referred to the agreement as a form of wealth transfer, however, Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, who was a key climate negotiator for the State Department in previous administrations stated that it’s not a tax on the people and that there is no major wealth transfer.

Mr Purvis explains that the agreement involves no obligations for a country to make financial payments. 

Recently, Japan and South Korea announced their plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, joining several other nations from across the world looking to shift their focus in response to the climate crisis.

If Mr Biden is to become the president, he has stated that he would immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement and some have said Biden should follow a similar path to Obama and sign an executive order. Biden has discussed several bold targets in terms of climate change. His climate plan includes the US reaching 100% clean energy economy and net zero emissions by no later than 2050. His climate agenda would require the overall support of Congress, which will most likely, require a democratic majority in the house and Senate. 

In previous years, Mr Obama pledged $3 billion towards the Green Climate Fund to support poorer nations adapt and in 2019, 27 Nations, excluding the US, contributed a total of $9.8billion. Mr Biden has said he will recommit to the fund and ensure the US is a contributor to the Green Climate Fund.

 

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