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US on the brink of Paris Agreement decision; UN claims power sector jobs will be lost

High-skilled jobs in the power sector will go to China, India and Europe if the US decides to quit the Paris Agreement, according to UN Environment chief Erik Solheim.

US President Donald Trump is expected to announce as early as next week whether he will take the United States out of the Paris Agreement climate pact, having vowed during his campaign to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement” within 100 days of becoming president.

In January, Myron Ebell, who was appointed by Donald Trump to head his transition team for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that the President could pull out of the agreement at any time by using an executive order.

However, UN Environment chief Erik Solheim has voiced concern about the ramifications if such a decision were taken by the US.

“There is no doubt where the future is and that is what all the private sector companies have understood,” Solheim said. “The future is green,” he said.

“Obviously if you are not a party to the Paris agreement, you will lose out. And the main losers, of course, will be the people of the United States itself because all the interesting, fascinating new green jobs would go to China and to the other parts of the world that are investing heavily in this.”

The world has now passed its “peak oil” stage, the Norwegian-born Solheim said, and was rapidly moving into the age of solar and wind.

The Paris accord, agreed by nearly 200 countries in 2015, seeks to limit planetary warming by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from burning fossil fuels.

“Wind engineer is now probably the most promising job opportunity in the United States,” Solheim said, adding that China and India were bringing the price of solar down so fast that coal was no longer competitive.

Solheim’s new target is pollution, with plastic in the oceans expected to equal the weight of fish by 2050. With science, mobilised citizens, regulated markets and the enormous power of business, such huge problems could be solved, he said.

The green revolution is being led by iconic firms such as Google, Walmart, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, so the momentum does not depend on Washington, Solheim said.

“Even if the worst were to happen and the United States were to withdraw, the consequences would be much less than people think,” he said.

Political leadership would shift to the European Union, China and India, with the UN already talking to them about meeting the funding gap if the United States steps back - not only from the climate deal, but from UN funding in general.

“We definitely want to ask the Senate and the US Congress to keep as much of the US contribution as possible to the UN and to the climate work. If they drastically reduce we would for sure ask others to step up and provide more money,” he said.

In February 2017, the World Bank said that developing countries were taking the lead in implementing policies designed to enable the switch to sustainable energy by 2030 in comparison to the West. 

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