Climate: find way ahead after Trump

US President Donald Trump’s decision to take the country out of the Paris agreement on climate change has met with disappointment and condemnation all over the world. There is much opposition within the US, too. A few weeks ago, Trump had taken the first steps to withdraw from the agreement which he had always claimed to be against US interests. His position on climate change mocks at science, ignores history, endangers the future and goes against the collective wisdom of the world. The world may not be safe if the leader of a superpower takes such uninformed and ill-judged decisions. All his arguments about the agreement are wrong. Trump says it is discriminatory and China and India have got away cheaply and with less obligations. But actually there are no commitments and only promises of voluntary reduction of carbon emissions under the agreement. India, China and many other countries have promised to make proportionately bigger cuts than the US. Trump’s argument is ridiculous when the per capita emissions of other countries, including India, are only a fraction of those from the US. In any case, much of the present climate crisis is the result of past emissions from the US and other developed countries.

Dealing with Trump’s decision and finding the way forward is more important than proving that it is wrong. Almost the entire world, including the European Union, China and India, who are the major polluters, has decided to abide by the agreement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has clearly reiterated India’s position. Other countries may now have to put in greater efforts to meet the Paris target of restricting global warming to less than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. With more renewable energy initiatives being undertaken and the cost steadily decreasing, it may now be possible to effect the shift away from fossil fuels faster and more beneficial. Even in the US, many states, cities and companies may not follow the Trump line. But the decision will lead to a shrinking of the US leadership role in the world and even to disputes and trade wars.

It will take up to four years for the US to completely move out of the agreement and that gives the world time to formulate an effective response to it. A major challenge is to find financial support in place of the US pledge of $3 billion for mitigation and adaptation to poor and developing countries. This is important for the success of the Paris plan. There are some who even think that the withdrawal of the US gives an opportunity to make the agreement better and more effective. 

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