Donald Trump’s decision yesterday to take the US out of the Paris Agreement has been in the pipeline (pun slightly intended) ever since he was elected president back in November. Now that it’s actually happened, what should those of us working in AD and the low-carbon sector more broadly make of it?
There’s no doubt that the pulling out of the second largest polluter and arguably the most powerful and influential country in the world from the Paris Agreement is a setback for progress on climate change on a global scale – one of the greatest successes of COP21 was getting agreement between the major economic powers to forge a common pathway. Despite this, here are five reasons to remain hopeful on the future of the Paris Agreement:
- Trump doesn’t speak for the whole of the US – States, municipalities, and businesses large and small in the US have stated that they will continue to invest in low-carbon technologies irrespective of whether the US is formally part of the Paris Agreement. It is increasingly making better business sense to invest in renewables as their cost continues to plummet, and Trump won’t be able to single-handedly turn back the unstoppable tide of clean technology sweeping the US.
- There’s no sign of a domino effect – In previous years, the dominance of the US on the international stage would’ve led to a range of other countries effectively saying ‘if the US doesn’t bother with this, why should we?’. Global consensus on the need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions means that almost every country sees that staying within the Paris Agreement is in its own interest. The only other countries not signed up to the Agreement are Syria and Nicaragua, and there’s no sign of any other nations looking to follow suit in the light of Trump’s decision.
- The US will no longer be able to slow down negotiations – One benefit of the US being out of the Agreement and out of the UNFCCC more broadly may be that faster progress will be able to be made on climate negotiations without Trump trying to derail the process.
- Other countries are stepping up their game to compensate – In response to Trump’s decision, China and the EU have agreed to set up a new alliance to reduce global carbon emissions. Other countries have also pledged to deepen their own decarbonisation commitments to help compensate for the loss of the US
- The US could rejoin at any time – Trump’s decision is by no means permanent. There will be a new president within seven years and possibly within three who could well take the US back into the agreement, particularly if Trump’s coal dreams haven’t come true (which they almost certainly won’t, particularly given the low price of natural gas in the US). It’s also not impossible that Trump might change his mind, given that some of his closest advisors (not least his own daughter Ivanka) strongly support the US’s involvement in the Agreement – Trump himself has left the door open by saying that he’s willing to seek ‘better terms’ for the US being part of the deal.
As a low-carbon industry with some much to offer on a global scale, we shouldn’t spend too long mourning Trump’s decision. The overall direction of travel worldwide in terms of decarbonisation and investment in renewables is clear, and it’s now up to us and others to fill the vacuum left by the US administration unless or until they realise that low-carbon is the future and dirty coal the past.
We'll be talking more about the Paris Agreement and AD's role in meeting global climate-change targets at UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017, taking place on 5-6 July at the NEC in Birmingham. It's free to register and is the #1 global tradeshow for biogas.
Chris Noyce, ADBA PR & Parliamentary Affairs Executive (020 3176 5441, firstname.lastname@example.org)