In 2017, President Trump rocked and rattled the environmentalist world with his declaration of the US’s departure from the Paris Agreement on climate change. A year on, Laura Wormington examines the state of the Agreement in the wake of the declaration, and the possible ramifications for the future of global environmental politics.
The Paris Agreement was originally drafted and sealed in 2015 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in order to mitigate against the effects of climate change, minimise greenhouse gas emissions, and, specifically, limit the global average temperature rise to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. The US entered into the agreement in 2016 under Obama who called it the ‘single best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet.’ It was withdrawn by Trump a year later.
Due to the treaty’s legal nature, the withdrawal will not actually come into effect until November 2020, coincidentally around the time of the next presidential elections – but what will happen when it does? And what does this all mean for the future of global environmental politics, not least the environment itself? The consensus among many environmentalists is that the withdrawal is unequivocally detrimental for the future of the fight against climate change. But could it be possible that even greenhouse gas clouds have a silver lining?
As environmental activists across the globe constantly reiterate, climate change knows no borders and those most vulnerable to its consequences are often those least responsible for inducing it. Fighting it, therefore, requires international cooperation, particularly by wealthier countries – like the US, home to a mere twentieth of the world’s population but the cause of almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The Paris Climate Agreement was designed to ensure such cooperation and is complemented by the Green Climate Fund which aims to channel donations from wealthier high-emitting countries towards protecting poorer countries from climate change.
Donald Trump has never hesitated to vocalise his allegations that climate change is merely an elaborate hoax designed to hinder the US. An archetypal tweet from 2012, one of hundreds of a similar sentiment published by his infamous Twitter account, claims,
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012