US pullout from Paris Climate deal affects Bangladesh

Dhaka,  Thu,  24 August 2017
Published : 14 Jun 2017, 21:25:01
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US pullout from Paris Climate deal affects Bangladesh

Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Recently, US President Donald Trump declared that his country would pullout from the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change after striking a major blow to international efforts in combating global warming while distancing United States from its closest allies. Trump said he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris" - framing his decision as "a reassertion of America's sovereignty".       As America's pollution contributes largely to rising temperatures, the Earth may witness dangerous levels of global warming sooner following Trump's decision. Calculations suggest that withdrawal from Paris accord could additionally increase Co2 emissions up to 3 billion tons each year - enough to melt ice-sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger extreme weather conditions. After weeks of suspense, Trump finally decided to fulfil a top campaign pledge while abandoning the world's prime effort to reduce planetary warming. White House indicated that it would follow a lengthy exit process outlined in the deal as America would remain in the agreement for another three-and-a-half-year. Thus, the issue remains alive until next US presidential election. 

However, Trump asserted that United States would cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord. Trump is distancing himself from many of his staunchest allies who are already concerned about his decision while top aides including his daughter Ivanka Trump opposed the action. Previously, The Obama Administration had agreed under Paris accord to reduce the emissions more than a quarter below 2005 levels by 2025. Nevertheless, national targets have become voluntary since Paris agreement made room for United States along with 200 other countries to alter their commitments. Leaders of France, Germany and Italy have regretted Trump's decision expressing doubts about any change in the accord. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni wrote: "We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies". 

On June 01, White House confirmed Trump's conversation with leaders of Germany, France, Canada and Britain to explain his decision. He reassured them about America's commitment to the Trans-Atlantic alliance and promised robust efforts to protect the environment. At home, US Conference of Mayors has strongly opposed Trump's latest decision declaring that American mayors would continue their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Responding to Trump's pointing to Pittsburgh, the city's mayor Bill Peduto called the decision "disastrous for our planet, for cities such as Pittsburgh" and a step that "has made America weaker and the world less safe". In a rare statement on his successor's policies, former President Barack Obama said: "Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got". Despite being strong supporters of Republican initiatives, American business leaders have vigorously appealed to Trump not to abandon the accord. Economists believe that Paris accord would likely create numerous jobs in renewable energy at the expense of polluting industries. 

Nevertheless, Trump argued that Paris agreement had disadvantaged United States "to the exclusive benefit of other countries" leaving American businesses and taxpayers to absorb the cost. Initially, Trump's move could be symbolic as America will discontinue the contributions to United Nations Green Climate Fund (UNGCF) and stop reporting carbon data as required by Paris agreement, although domestic regulations require such reports anyway. Despite being under presidential review at present, the decision hardly affects major US regulations on power plants and car rules currently aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Trump claims that Paris agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States. 

As for the mechanism of withdrawal, international treaties have a four-year cooling-off period from the time they go into effect. Trump promised not to implement the "non-binding" parts of the deal immediately. Following only China, the United States is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon. Recently, Beijing cancelled construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and invested billions in massive wind and solar projects while reaffirming its commitment to Paris accord nonetheless. One official stated that White House aides have been divided on the question of staying or leaving the accord and deliberated on "caveats in the language" as late as May 31. However, Trump's statement was clear and direct and so was opposition from environmental groups. 

Experts opined that the impact of US absence in the Paris climate agreement can be disastrous as both local and global impacts might be felt. America's gross failure to take part in the battle against global warming is likely to affect numerous countries at the forefront. Obviously, Bangladesh is one of those countries where global warming is no longer considered a future prediction but a grim reality. According to Professor Ali Riaz, Chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University: "The situation in Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable countries to the climate change like many other countries in the third world is not of its own making." As a country with 5.0 per cent of the world's population consuming 25 per cent of products, United States surely has a global responsibility. Professor Riaz further rejects an argument by US National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and Trump's economic adviser Gary D. Cohn that global stage is "an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage." 

Even though national interests dominate policymaking, all countries have responsibilities while the bigger ones having greater responsibilities. With Trump's decision, not only America has demonstrated its unwillingness to take responsibilities but also abandoned its global leadership role.

Since America decided to abandon a moral high ground like Paris accord, it should be prepared to watch its remaining diplomatic initiatives fall flat. After Nicaragua and Syria, the US will become the third member of the "club of non-signatories to Paris Climate Deal". Interestingly, Syria did not sign due to its prolonged civil war and Nicaragua remained outside the agreement insisting that such deal favours rich countries - an argument contrary to US claim. An American pullout from Paris accord means that the world's second largest Co2 emitter will not adhere to a plan of reducing 26 per cent to 28 per cent in greenhouse emission by 2025. The United States alone produces 15 per cent of global carbon emissions. The plan to reduce emission was set in motion by President Obama following the Paris Summit. Analysts has refuted President Trump's claim that Paris agreement would cost America "a fortune". To date, America contributed only $1 billion to the UN Green Fund - only 33.33 per cent of its total commitment. A total of 194 countries already signed the deal and raised $10.1 billion. 

Furthermore, experts are yet to assess the economic consequences of a US pullout from Paris agreement in terms of jobs. However, Trump Administration claims it as "huge". The argument that Trump's pullout would save American coal industry is hardly supported by research. As the energy industry changes rapidly, jobs in US coal industry are unlikely to return despite countries like Bangladesh will be harmed profusely due to American withdrawal from the accord. 

 

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.

sarwarmdskhaled@gmail.com


 
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