Under Trump US goes rogue in leaving #ParisAgreement reports @takvera

John Englart

John Englart

Citizen journalist at No Fibs
John Englart has always had a strong social and environmental focus and over the past 10 years climate change science, climate policy and climate protest have become an increasingly important and primary focus of his work as a citizen journalist.
John Englart
- 4 hours ago
John Englart
I am involved in various Moreland-based community groups including Sustainable Fawkner where I blog on local and sustainability issues, Climate Action Moreland and Moreland Bicycle Users Group. I am also a member of Friends of the Earth, off and on, since 1976, and wrote the contribution on the Rides Against Uranium in the 1970s for the Friends of the Earth Australia book to mark the 30-year anniversary of FoE – 30 Years of Creative Resistance.


This article was originally published at Climate Action Moreland by John Englart, who has attended COP21 and COP22 as an NGO observer.

President Trump has announced the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, but says he is also open to a renegotiation. Germany, France, Italy and other nations say that the Paris Agreement is a framework agreement and is structured in such a way that it is not open to renegotiation.

The announcement brought condemnation from many world leaders, negotiators and civil society. British journalist George Monbiot described it as a crime against humanity.

The UNFCCC Secretariat released a statement saying it was ready to engage in dialogue with the United States government regarding the implications of their announcement, but was emphatic that renegotiation was not an option:

“The Paris Agreement remains a historic treaty signed by 195 Parties and ratified by 146 countries plus the European Union. Therefore it cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party.”

Under this agreement each country sets their own targets and action plan (Nationally Determined Contributions). There are no formal penalties for a country not meeting it’s own target. While there is a formal expectation that over time countries would increase their NDC, if a country went backwards with it’s NDC there are zero penalties.

Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a four year process. Trump chose this pathway rather than withdrawal from the UNFCCC which would be a more radical option but would only take one year.

In many ways, as Luke Kemp argues at the Conversation, it would be much easier if Trump had chosen for the US to quit the UNFCCC, which would preclude continuing obstruction.

Withdrawal from Paris Agreement means the US will continue to have a seat at the negotiations over the next four years, with the ability to veto and obstruct negotiation processes, such as the development of the Paris Agreement rulebook due to be finalised at COP24 in 2018.

The US only sent a team of 7 to the recent Bonn inter-sessional climate negotiations, with no instructions on direction. Those negotiators, as they had no new instructions, were coasting on the Obama administration directions. We will need to watch whether the Trump regime plays a low key roll or an active obstructionist role at future UNFCCC negotiations. As they have announced intention to withdraw there may be a little more latitude to deprecate US positions as part of consensus negotiations.

The world did bend over backwards during negotiations at COP21 to ensure this agreement suited the US. Remember that last minute hiccup between using the words ‘should’ and ‘shall’ in the final text in the final hours?

Almost certainly US withdrawal will stimulate more diplomatic leadership from Europe and China. I doubt we will see other countries following the USA. The Paris Agreement is, after all, just the tip of the ice berg in a global economic and energy transition already well under way, including in the USA.

Withdrawal from Paris is also likely to increase the resolve at state and city level and the grassroots in the USA to continue with zero carbon development and roll out of renewables. 61 US cities and three states have vowed to uphold Paris climate agreement. I suspect this is just the tip of the ice berg in climate resistance.

In particular: California, Washington and New York are establishing a formal alliance of states to uphold the Paris Accord. Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, is active in putting together an alliance of states, cities, universities and businesses to undertake to meet the US climate commitment, with a submission to the UNFCCC. The problem is non-state submissions aren’t currently recognised in UNFCCC formal processes.

One hopes there will also be an electoral backlash at the 2018 mid term congressional elections. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

The Paris Agreement still has momentum and endorsement by most nations and can cope with US withdrawal. As I said at the end of COP22 in Marrakech, there is still strong momentum for climate action and momentum to move forward, globally and within the USA.

Australia reacts

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Climate and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg today issued a joint media statement reaffirming the Turnbull Government and Australia’s strong commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement was ratified by Australia 10 November 2016, after news of Trump’s election.

“The Turnbull Government is disappointed that the United States has notified that it will withdraw from this important international agreement.”

What should be occurring is a preparedness for Australia to step up stronger action at reducing emissions, to reassess and improve the targets we have set at the national level.

According to the Climate Institute statement, “87 per cent of Australians do not want our country to step back from its commitments in any way – and almost two thirds want us to step up our efforts to help make up for the United States,” said Acting CEO of The Climate institute, Olivia Kember.

“Along with the leaders of EU nations, China, India, major global businesses and investors, Australian citizens recognize that it’s in our own interest to stay in the Paris Agreement and make it work.”

“Australians want action because they can see that the economic stability and environmental health of our country and the planet as a whole are at risk if we fail to deal with climate change,” she said. “Australians do not support President Trump’s decision to pull out at all.”

The Climate Council was also clear:

“The US is positioning itself as an international pariah. Out of nearly 200 countries only three have rejected the Paris Climate Agreement. Nicaragua, because it didn’t go far enough. Syria, which is in civil war. And, now, the US looks set to withdraw. No other countries show signs of backtracking from their commitments,” said Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie.

McKenzie raised that China and the EU are already proposing to work even more closely on climate change and are considering imposing a carbon tax on US imports.

“The US is one of the world’s largest polluters. It is abundantly clear that it is in Australia’s national interest that global pollution be reduced, including from the US. Extreme ocean temperatures have caused back-to-back bleaching on 1500km of the Great Barrier Reef causing significant damage. The US failing to do its part should be condemned by the Australian government.” said McKenzie in a statement.

It is worthwhile listening to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the geopolitics and necessity for structural re-adjustment to placate those working in carbon intensive industries:

So what do our Pacific Island neighbours say?

Members of Pacific Islands Climate Action Network reacted to Trump’s exit of the Paris Agreement:

Krishneil Narayan, Coordinator, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network:
“The Paris Agreement is a lifeline for vulnerable communities around the world. We will not be perturbed by the US withdrawal. Under no circumstances can the Paris Agreement be renegotiated. We expect all other countries to redouble their efforts to confront the climate crisis. We welcome the strong show of support to the Paris Agreement by many world leaders. The European Union, China, India and others are already forming alliances to support the continuation of the Paris Agreement. Even without the United States, climate action under the Paris Agreement will continue. Not even Trump can derail action on climate change. The United States will be isolated.”

Matisse Walkden Brown, Head of Pacific Net, Greenpeace Australia Pacific:
“We move on and we move forward, together. The United States administration have shown their allegiance to the glory days of the past. Sadly for them, the economics, the science, and the people, all agree that the fossil fuel days are over, and that the transformation towards zero carbon is now irreversibly under way and accelerating. While this is a shameful day for President Trump and his people, it will not deter the rest of us. It is time for international politics to begin embracing new economies, new technologies, and commit to the fighting for the interests of the people, not the polluters. One man, one country will not change that.”

Koreti Tiumalu, Pacific Coordinator, 350.org:
“Trump’s exit from the Paris agreement is immoral and a sign of shortsightedness on his part. It’s even clearer now that his priority is with protecting the profits of the fossil fuel industry and not the Pacific. Nevertheless, our Pacific people believe in the strength of the Pacific leadership, and the rest of the world, going into COP 23 and their commitments to the Paris Agreement. It is now up to us to continue to fight for our communities, stop all new fossil fuel projects and support a just transition towards 100% renewable energy.”

Noelene Nabulivou, Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (PPGCCSD), and the Women and Gender Constituency Liaison to the COP23 Presidency:
“This is not just the decision of one man, rather it is a reflection of an archaic social and economic system, one that is based on shortsighted selfishness and corporatization of our planet. This only strengthens the resolve of all those who deeply care about this planet, all women and all people and all species. Resist and propose. Defend the Commons, work with us on alternate strategies. We will NEVER give up on this beautiful planet. ”

The final word from citizens in the US:

Citizens of the US in every state of the union are opposed to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement:

Polling from November 2016 done for Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that:

  • Seven in ten registered voters (69%) say the U.S. should participate in the international agreement to limit climate change (the Paris COP21 agreement), compared with only 13% who say the U.S. should not.
  • Two-thirds of registered voters (66%) say the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do.
  • A majority of registered voters want President-elect Trump (62%) and Congress (63%) to do more to address global warming.
  • A majority of registered voters say corporations and industry should do more to address global warming (72% of all registered voters; 87% of Democrats, 66% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans).
  • Nearly eight out of ten registered voters (78%) support taxing global warming pollution, regulating it, or using both approaches, while only one in ten opposes these approaches

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