We have all heard about the Paris Climate Agreement and Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the deal has been roundly criticised by politicians and business leaders. But what was actually in the deal and what will the impact of America’s decision to leave be?
Signed at the end of 2015, the Paris Agreement is the single most significant example of collective action to combat climate change.
Where other attempts at global action broke down in the negotiation stage, the Paris deal was successful and united world leaders across the globe to ratify action against emissions and warming.
The headline agreement was to keep global average temperatures ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels. There was also a supplementary target to, if possible, limit the increase to 1.5°C.
This secondary condition was introduced by leaders from some island nations most at risk from rising sea levels.
Other key pledges included to limit the amount of human produced greenhouse gases to neutral levels at some point in the mid-century. This would be a level at which the trees, soil and oceans could naturally absorb all the emissions produced by humans.
A pledge pushed for by previous US president Barack Obama meant that each country would have their contribution to the carbon emissions target reviewed every five years to make sure countries stayed on track.
The method of climate reduction was more about self-policing and countries setting their own targets rather than international checks and penalties on countries.
In addition, a climate change fund would be set up so that developed countries could help poorer nations adapt to a protect themselves from the impact of climate change.
What happens now
Given the problems experienced at previous talks, the reaching of this agreement was seen as a massive victory for the planet. The only countries that did not sign up to the pledge were Syria and Nicaragua, and the latter did not sign up because they didn’t think the proposals went far enough.
And although some important polluters like Russia have not yet formally ratified the agreement, everything appeared to be going well until Donald Trump pulled out of the deal.
Trump’s decision comes after a series of heated discussions and late night talks with EU leaders and the Chinese government. But in the wake of the US president’s decision to leave, those opposed have presented a united front, solidifying their commitment to the deal.
Several prominent US firms, including Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook, also asked Trump to reconsider remaining in the agreement and Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, has since left his White House advisory role.
In a private phone call to the president, Theresa May said she was “disappointed” with Trump’s decision and reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to the agreement, but she did not join with French, German and Italian governments in issuing a jointly worded condemnation of the president’s decision.
It is thought that in the wake of the debate, other leaders could be more likely to go back on their commitment to the deal. It could upset the balance of the deal if some countries are perceived to be drawing an ‘unfair’ advantage from not being in the deal.
In his speech announcing the decision to leave the Paris climate agreement President Trump said, “So we are getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair”. This suggestion was met with a frosty reception by other signatories of the climate deal, including Emmanuel Macron who has become one of Trump’s most vocal critics.
Although other world leaders including Vladimir Putin have been more supportive of the US President, Trump may now discover that cooperation from other countries is not as forthcoming on his priorities, such as combating international terrorism.