True to the election promise Trump made to his core support base in the rust belt, he withdrew from the Paris agreement entered into by 195 countries in 2015. The Paris Agreement sought to restrict the rise of global average temperatures to within two degree Celsius from pre-industrial times. That is what science says is necessary to prevent catastrophic and irreversible impacts of climate change. As part of its contribution towards this goal, the United States had pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent as compared to 2005 levels by the year 2025. Several decisions taken by the Trump administration gave an indication that the president is not convinced about the reality of climate change. He appointed Scott Pruitt, a known climate change skeptic, to the position of administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and signed an executive order reversing the Clean Power Plan, which had required states to regulate power plants. This order undid a key part of the Obama administration’s efforts to tackle global warming. Trump did this ostensibly to ensure energy independence and protect American jobs in sectors like coal.
Trump went on to blame India and China among the key reasons for his decision to pull out of the Agreement. He said that India would get”billions and billions and billions” of dollars for meeting its commitment under the Paris Agreement while it, along with Beijing, would double its coal-fired power plants in the years to come, gaining a financial advantage over the United States. With the United States defiance of the Paris agreement, United States will no longer be bound by commitments assumed under the Paris Agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, share climate friendly technologies with developing countries, and contribute financial resources to enable them undertake measures to slow down or reduce their emissions and also to adapt to the impact of climate change. What Mr. Trump may not understand is that it is not the environment or the climate that could be the biggest loser. The biggest loser is likely to be the United States, as its leadership and credibility has been severely dented and eroded in front of the international community. This issue had presented itself as a critical opportunity for Trump to redeem his reputation and global standing and finally act as a global leader. He instead frittered it away to great damage to himself and his country. The biggest winner could possibly be China, as Trump has vacated space and created a vacuum for Beijing to step into without any conflict or tussle. In hindsight, this decision will be seen as one of the historic blunders or turning points in the cataclysmic transformation in geopolitics of today.
The absence of the US from the Paris Agreement may hurt the global climate architecture. The ability of the US to raise financial and technological resources is unmatched. The ability of developing and poor countries, which also happen to be some of the most vulnerable, to cope with the impacts of climate change depends directly on the financial and technological resources made available to them, at an affordable cost, by the United States and other developed countries. Finance and transfer of technology are two of the most vital components of the Paris Agreement. The developed world, including the United States, had committed itself to mobilising at least US$ 100 billion in climate finance every year from the year 2020, even prior to the Paris Agreement. In Paris, they agreed to enhance this amount from the year 2025.
Despite American defiance India has declared that it remains committed to the Paris Agreement regardless of what other countries do. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interactions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that the Paris Climate Change Agreement is a shared legacy of the world and it will benefit future generations. Modi pledged to go “above and beyond” the accord to combat climate change. Writing on his official Twitter account he said: “The Paris Agreement reflects our duty toward protecting the Earth and our natural resources. For us, this is an article of faith.” Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 2, Modi said that India is committed to the Paris accord irrespective of the course chosen by other countries. Replying to a question, he quoted the ancient Indian Vedas to say that harming the environment is a crime. Modi termed it as an “immoral and criminal act” to spoil the environment for future generations. India also shot down Trump’s charge that it signed the Paris climate accord to get billions of dollars from developed nations. Trump has called out for renegotiation of the Paris agreement so that it suits his vision for America. Several countries including Germany, France, Italy, and others have stated that no renegotiation will take place and that the Agreement will stand as it is. Fresh negotiations could unravel the delicate compromise arrived at after often complex negotiations.
India is on course to meet its Paris agreement commitments well before the stipulated time-frame which includes generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, producing 40 percent of India’s energy needs by renewable means by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency of the Indian economy by 33-35 percent per unit of GDP from the level in 2005, will be achieved on a voluntary basis. Though lack of US technical and financial support may lead to short term hiccups, however, this could be an opportunity for India, in particular, to drive technological and manufacturing advancements in green, energy-efficient technologies as the US raises the white flag. If Trump’s decision was with the aim to ‘save’ American jobs, then it might have the opposite impact. America will lose jobs in research and manufacturing of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly technologies, and if Modi can capitalize on this then it could be a Godsend opportunity for the Indian industry.
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