The United States has never been one for collective global agreements. Last Friday, the US government pulled out of the Paris Accord – the global agreement by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stop climate change.
The US did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol – the agreement prior to Paris – and has not ratified a number of other international agreements such as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, The Landmine Ban Treaty and the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.
In many ways it was more significant that under the Obama administration, the US signed an executive order confirming the US’s adoption of the agreement. However, Obama did not submit this to Congress for approval, which is how Donald Trump is now able to “cancel” the US’s commitment to the Accord.
The US is a large emitter, and has now isolated itself – along with Syria and Nicaragua – as the only countries not to be involved. The Nicaraguan government believed the Paris Accord was not comprehensive enough; climate change has not been a priority for the Syrian government. China, Germany, France, UK, India and over 147 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement and show no signs of backtracking.
Global momentum is overwhelmingly shifting away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. Solar and wind are now the cheapest form of new power in many countries. China will invest $360 billion in renewable energy through to 2020, creating 13 million more jobs in the process. Ninety-five global corporations (many of them US-based) – including Apple, Coca-Cola, GM, Goldman Sachs, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Unilever, and even Walmart – have committed to 100 per cent renewables in their operations.
American states are already leading on clean energy, including the Republican stronghold Texas, where Georgetown has become one of the first cities in the country to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy.
Speaking to ABC news, Dr Luke Kemp, lecturer in International Relations and Environmental policy at the Australian National University, suggested that Trump’s decision was not all doom and gloom for the environment.
“The US as a ‘rogue administration’, has more leverage to do damage from inside the agreement than it would have from outside,” Dr Kemp said.
“If the US stays in, it shows quite clearly that you can operate blatantly violating the purpose and spirit of the agreement and you can miss your target intentionally, you can cut financing, you can go ahead and built new coal mines and build new pipelines.”
On the back of Trump’s announcement, the Turnbull Government reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. Together these formalise Australia’s 2030 and 2020 emissions reduction targets, which were ratified by Australia in November 2016.
In a statement made for World Environment Day, Uniting Church president Stuart Macmillan urged all UCA members to pray and act so that our government might respond more urgently to the devastating impacts of climate change.
Do you think America’s withdrawal will hinder or help the Paris accord?
Image: Garth Jones