Donald  Trump delivering remarks at the Shale Insight energy conference in Pittsburgh earlier this year

Trump seeks to back out of Paris climate deal

Image credit: Reuters

US President elect Donald Trumps is seeking to withdraw from the Paris climate change treaty, sources from Trump’s team have told Reuters. The news comes as researchers announce that global greenhouse gas emissions have not increased for three consecutive years, mostly thanks to the efforts of China.

Trump, who has previously described climate change as a hoax, reportedly wants to withdraw as soon as possible from the global agreement negotiated last year in Paris. This would be before the standard four-year period provided in the treaty.

The Reuters’ source said he could do that by issuing a presidential order deleting the US signature from the accord. Trump is likely to have support of the Republican-dominated Congress, which has been angered by President Obama’s climate change policies, as well as his pushing forward with the signing of the Paris treaty through an executive order without obtaining the US Senate’s approval first.

“There wouldn’t be this diplomatic fallout on the broader international agenda if Obama hadn’t rushed the adoption,” the source told Reuters. “It was reckless for the Paris agreement to enter into force before the election.

The Paris treaty came into force on 4 November, four days before the election, having been signed by 109 countries responsible for 76 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The US alone is responsible for 18 per cent.

Since Trump’s victory last week, countries from across the world - including China - reaffirmed their support for the agreement, which seeks to phase out fossil fuels by mid-century and aims to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2℃ compared to pre-industrial times.

The countries, currently meeting in Morocco for another round of climate talks, expressed hope that the US will honour the commitment, but said the pact is strong enough to survive its withdrawal.

According to former Irish President and human rights advocate Mary Robinson, the US withdrawal from the climate change treaty would negatively affect the lives of American people in the first place.

“It would be a tragedy for the United States and the people of the United States if the US becomes a kind of rogue country, the only country in the world that is somehow not going to go ahead with the Paris Agreement,” Robinson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Sunday.

“The moral obligation of the United States as a big emitter - and a historically big emitter that built its whole economy on fossil fuels that are now damaging the world - it’s unconscionable the United States would walk away from it.”

She added that it is understandable that the large portion of the US population, which used to work or still works in the fossil fuel sector, feels threatened and frustrated. However, she added, the way forward is not in returning back to the fossil fuels, but in providing support to these people to retrain in order to find new opportunities in the green economy.

“Clearly they’re hurting at the moment,” she said. “But it’s not a future to go backward into coal and have higher emissions in the United States. The impact of that will be felt by poor communities and poor countries all over the world.”

It has already been well documented that climate change will have the biggest effect on the world's poorest people and volatile territories, such as Africa.

While Robinson also believes the Paris treaty would survive the US withdrawal, she admitted it would be more difficult for the international community to raise funding to help poorer countries to develop sustainably without American support.

Ironically, the findings of a recent US research project concluded that all of the world's energy needs could be met entirely using renewable solutions, zero fossil fuels, by 2050 - the so-called 100 per cent solution.

The news of Trumps plans comes as the world is celebrating a minor victory in the battle against climate change. According to data released during the climate talks in Morocco, global greenhouse gas emissions have not increased for three consecutive years. The accomplishment has been mostly attributed to the efforts made by China.

“It’s far too early to say we’ve reached a peak in emissions,” said Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, co-author of the report.

“Emissions growth in the next few years will depend on whether energy and climate policies can lock in the new trends and, importantly, raise the ambition of emissions pledges to be more consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.”

The researchers expect China, currently responsible for 30 per cent of global emissions, to remain the major force behind the battle against global warming.

Chinese emissions were on track to dip 0.5 per cent this year, depressed by slower economic growth and coal consumption.

US emissions were projected to fall by 1.7 per cent in 2016, also driven by declines in coal consumption, according to the study published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

By contrast, emissions in many emerging economies are still rising. In 2015, India has seen an increase of 5.2 per cent and even the European Union’s emissions rose by 1.4 per cent.

Carbon dioxide is the main manmade greenhouse gas blamed for trapping heat, stoking disruptions to world water and food supplies with heat waves, floods, storms and droughts. E&T detailed how a change of 1.5℃ will affect all countries of the world in our feature on climate change.

The overall global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry were set to rise a tiny 0.2 per cent in 2016 from 2015 levels to 36.4 billion tonnes. In the 2000s, the average rate of emission levels growth was 2.3 per cent.

The stalling growth in emissions comes despite global economic growth exceeding 3 per cent a year.

Researchers suggest it could mark a permanent shift away from the long-term rapid growth trend in climate change pollution and are consistent with pledges made by countries on cutting emissions up to 2030.

However, the researchers maintained there is still a long way to go for the world to gain the upper hand over the climate. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, 2016 is set to become the hottest year on record globally, beating the previous 2015 record.

Global temperatures in 2016 were approximately 1.2℃ above pre-industrial levels and 0.88℃ above the average for 1961-1990.

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