Why USA opted out of Paris Climate Change Agreement?

Donald Trump has always been a very vocal climate change denier. Right from many years before the presidential election – till date he has repeatedly saidClimate Change a hoax, a con, a stupid thing, a canard and a manipulation by scientists.

He had said on many occasions that the ‘Global warming concept was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive’.

In a tweet in 2012 Donald Trump said “Let’s continue to destroy the competitiveness of our factories & manufacturing so we can fight mythical global warming. China is so happy!”

Apparently his opinion and stand on global warming and climate change could not get changed after becoming president.

Under Obama administration USA took leadership position during the negotiation of Paris Agreement in 2015 to make sure that the world has a new and ambitious treaty on climate change.

On June 1, 2017 while announcing the withdrawal of USA from the Paris Climate Accord President Trump could not give any cogent reasons as to why USA opted out of Paris Climate Change Agreement?

Is is certain that he fulfilled the pledge he made during the presidential election campaign to “cancel” the accord.

Given below are some of the most pressing issues Trump feels are against the USA in the Paris accord.

USA does not want to contribute financially or otherwise to the Global Climate Change funding processes under the Protocol.

Trump said that his announcement would end the implementation of carbon reduction targets set under Obama and stall all contributions to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund as these were “costing the United States a fortune.”

Under UNFCCC, negotiations take place under some guiding principles. One principal is of Common but Differential Responsibility and Related Ability. At the core of it is the fact that the rich and industrialized nations have already emitted their share of CO2.

Due to accumulated emissions  of the past, natural resources have shrinked worldwide. The people in the poor countries are dependent on the natural resources for their livelihood. Hence they have suffered the most.

The Paris Agreement differentiates the poor & developing countries from the developed and rich countries. It offers  some advantage to the poor and developing countries to compensate their loss.

It asks rich countries to provided poor countries low carbon technologies and financial resources.

He said ‘Paris Agreement has placed “draconian” financial burdens on the American people’: Through Green Climate Fund, developed countries are bound to provide 100 billion $ per year support to developing countries every year till 2020. Paris Agreement has extended the duration of this support till 2025.

According to the President it is “Yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States”.

Donald Trump hinted towards his willingness for renegotiations over the Paris agreement and said “And we will start to renegotiate and we’ll see if there’s a better deal. If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

Trumps feel that ‘Paris Agreement is unfair to the USA as it put different level of obligations on it and top polluters like China and India’

The talks under the convention takes into account the historical responsibilities. The country that has emitted more in the past has more responsibility to curb emissions now.

Trump said “As someone who cares deeply about our environment, I cannot in good conscience support a deal which punishes the United States,” And added “The Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States”.

Clearly Trump wants to completely ignore the historical CO2 emissions of USA which is far more than that of the China and India combined.

USA tops the chart of present level of per capita emissions of the countries. It comes second when total carbon emissions of the country are counted even when the population of China and India are far more than that of USA.

China and India are emerging economies. It means that their historic emissions have been negligible. Per capita emissions of these countries are still low from that of the developed countries.

But they rise in the list of biggest polluters when total emissions of the nations are taken into account because of their population size.

‘The mines are starting to open up’ — ‘American people are at loss because of the jobs lost in the coal sector’:

Paris agreement blocks the development of clean coal in America.

Through this move the severe energy restrictions imposed by the Paris Climate Accord will be removed. Trump wants to revive the country’s recently explored abundant coal energy reserves.

Trump said “The mines are starting to open up. We are having a big opening”. And of course he wants to have full utilization of that.  As per the US president this will provide jobs to the American workers in the coal industry and will fulfill his promise ‘to put American workers first’.

However how many jobs it will create is not clear. Many believe that now the renewable energy sector provides more jobs than the coal sector.

It was not only USA but virtually every nation committed to cut down on greenhouse gases emission sources from burning of fossil fuels.

The move has come as a big setback for the climate change supporters.

USA always remained out of the Kyoto Protocol 1997 as well. Kyoto Protocol is the first international agreement on climate change. The then President of USA George W Bush had refused to sign the pact.

The need for yet another climate change agreement was felt because USA was not happy with the existing one. The result was that a global exercise took place and Paris Agreement came into existence which is more bottom up in its approach than top down as against the Kyoto Protocol.

This time again USA failed to be a part of the international climate Change agreement.

 

Kyoto Protocol Summary : First International Treaty on Climate Change

Kyoto Protocol is the first international agreement on climate change. The objective of the Kyoto protocol was to keep the global temperature rise below 2 ºC. A comprehensive summary of the Kyoto protocol covering must know facts about it is provided below.

Kyoto Protocol Summary

Kyoto Treaty is an international agreement under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Since the industrial era, the concentration of Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is constantly rising. The more these gases are there in the atmosphere, the more is the global warming. The global temperature rise changes the climate system. Since it is because of the gases emitted by man made industries, it is called anthropogenic influence in our climate system. 

The aim of the Kyoto protocol is to stabilize the level of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere.  

Know more about the present level of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Kyoto Protocol legally binds industrialized and developed countries to reduce the dangerous level of GHG’s in the atmosphere within a time frame.

Kyoto treaty was adopted in Kyoto city of Japan in 11 December 1997.  But it took it more than 7 years to come to force. It entered into force on 16 February 2005. At present 192 countries are party of the Kyoto protocol.

The concentration of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose sharply over the past 150 years. This is mainly because of the industrialized nations. This past emission is termed as historic emission. Kyoto protocol takes the past or historic emissions into account.

Based on their past emissions, Kyoto treaty gives more responsibility to developed countries to reduce emissions than the developing and poor nations. This forms the core of the protocol. It is known as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities“. 

It means that although all the countries have this common responsibility to reduce GHG emissions, but the level of commitment should be more from the nations that have emitted more such gases in the past. 

Based on the historic and current GHG emissions, the developed countries are required to take the lead to reduce the emissions of the greenhouse gases and respond to the climate change.

Based on the economic conditions, countries are grouped under the UNFCCC in following manner:

Kyoto Protocol Countries 

Kyoto Protocol Countries are called Parties of the Protocol. Currently, there are 192 Parties (191 States and 1 regional economic integration organization) to the Kyoto Treaty to the UNFCCC. 

Kyoto Protocol countries are groups of Annex I, Annex II  and Non Annexed Parties of UNFCCC.

Annex I Parties of UNFCCC

In the Annex 1 of the UNFCCC there are 43 countries. It includes European Commission. These are industrialized nations that were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1992 and Nations with Economies in Transition (EIT).

Annex II Parties of UNFCCC

This is a subset of Annex 1 party consisted of 23 developed countries but the countries with Economies in Transition (EIT) have excluded from this group. These are highly developed countries.

Non Annex 1 Parties

Mostly developing countries come under the Non Annex 1 Parties to the Kyoto protocol.

Kyoto Protocol Targets

First Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012)

  • The time frame of first commitment period of Kyoto protocol was 2008-2012. 37 industrialized countries and European community (Annex I party) set the target of reducing their GHG emissions by 5% below 1990 levels during this time period.
  • Each Annex 1 country has been given total allowable emissions known as Assigned amount units (AAU) for this commitment period.

Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020)

  • The second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol is 8 year long. In this period 37 countries (Annex 1 party) committed to reduce GHG levels by 18% below the level of 1990.
  • Four countries: Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia that were part of the First commitment period opted out from the new commitments. Another four countries Belarus, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Malta are the newcomers that were not there in the first period but became joined it for the second commitment period.
  • United States of America (USA), the biggest polluter of GHG emissions, refused to become part of Kyoto protocol.
  • The protocol exempts more than 100 developing countries for legal commitment on GHG reductions. These countries include China and India.
  • Kyoto protocol also provides support to the developing countries and to the countries in economic transitions to mitigate and adapt to the climate change.

Greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol

The emission of 6 Greenhouse Gases were targeted to reduce under the Kyoto Protocol: Carbon dioxide (CO2); Methane (CH4); Nitrous oxide (N2O); Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); Perfluorocarbons (PFCs); and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Through Doha Amendment, the seventh gas ‘Nitrogen trifluoride‘ has been added to the list of regulated GHGs. Its regulation applies in the second commitment period of the protocol.

Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Paris agreement on Climate Change is a global treaty under international law to combat climate change. It was agreed (adopted) by 195 nations in Paris during the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on December 12, 2015. Some of its provisions are legally binding.

Key Points of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Goal

At the core to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is to limit the global temperature rise below 2°Celsius as compared to pre-industrial era in the present century. The agreement also emphasizes to drive efforts so that the temperature rise can be limited to 1.5 °C.

Why limiting temperature rise below 2 °C is so important?

Temperature rise of 2 °C is a critical limit. The reason is that if the temperature rises beyond this limit its impact will be catastrophic. If the global average temperature rises beyond 2°Celsius, it would become impossible to go back to the previous normal. 

Long Term Emissions Goals of Paris Agreement

Paris Agreement sets two important emission goals.

  • One of the goals is with regard to the Peaking Year. Peaking year means the year when the emissions of the country will reach to its maximum levels. The emissions start declining from the next year onward. Paris agreement states that Emission Peaking Year be reached as soon as possible. At the same time it recognizes the fact that the developing countries may take longer in reaching their peaking year.
  • The second goal to be reached by countries is Greenhouse Gas Neutrality. This means that the countries are required to become able to remove as much GHGs by sinks as are emitted by anthropogenic activities by source. 

Mechanisms and Approach of Paris Agreement on Climate Change for Successful Implementation

1. Nationally Determined Contributors (NDC)

In the run up to the Paris climate change conference each country was asked to communicate their pledges related to climate actions and emission reductions targets they intend to take up. This was supposed to be done voluntarily and decided within the country through discussions. This was called Intended Nationally Determined Contributors (INDC’s).

Once a country formally joins the Paris Agreement, it commits itself to work towards the implementation of the communicated pledges. At this stage the pledges it made earlier are called ‘Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs)’ and the word “intended” is dropped.

Each country is required to communicate new and successively more and more ambitious NDC’s in every 5 years. Providing NDCs is a binding commitment under Paris Agreement. However, the implementation of NDCs domestically is not a legally binding commitment. The Paris agreement commits parties to drive efforts domestically to achieve the pledges they made for emission reductions (NDC).

2. Carbon Market

  • The Paris agreement approves ‘Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes’ to fulfill nationwide pledges of emission reduction (NDC’s). With reference to climate change, the word ‘Mitigation’ refers to the efforts one takes to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases.
  • Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes means that a country can make efforts to reduce GHG emissions (mitigation) in other countries. The emission reduction it achieves else where in the word will be counted towards its own emission reduction targets. The accounting guidelines for these mitigation efforts are yet to be developed.
  • To make Clean Development Mechanism of Kyoto Protocol successful a new mechanism will also be developed.

 3. Through NDCs countries have communicated their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When all the NDC’s are collected, it provides an idea of how much total global emission reductions the global community is targeting  over a period of time. It is found, however, that the collective efforts would not be sufficient to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degree C by the end of the century. Therefore, countries are required to progressively increase their emission reduction targets.

To promote it, the Paris agreement establishes two processes; (i) Global Stocktake, and (ii) Submission of the New Commitments/ Pledges called new NDCs by countries.

  • Global Stocktake and Submission of the New NDC’s

Global Stocktake: The purpose of the global stocktake is to assess and track progress made towards achieving the goals of the agreement. The first Stocktake will happen in 2023.

New NDC’s: The ultimate goal of Paris Agreement on Climate Change is to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C. Stocktake will tell the required increase in the emission reduction targets to achieve the goals. It will be beneficial for directing countries to increase their emission reduction targets successively. The new national pledges (NDCs) submitted by the countries should be reflecting the outcomes of the stocktake. 

4. Transparency

To make the countries accountable, Paris Agreement sets a new transparency system with binding commitments from all the countries.

Emission Inventories:  In order to track the progress made by the countries towards achieving their NDC’s possible, all the countries are required to submit Emission Inventories and the other necessary information. The necessary information includes their adaptation efforts; support extended by the developed countries and received by the developing countries should also be reported. This information will be reviewed by the experts.

Except small island countries and least developed countries, rest of the countries needed to submit the inventories after every 2 years.

In order to make the developing countries able for such sort of transparency requirement, support will be provided to build their capacities.

The details of the transparency system will be negotiated by 2018.

5. Implementation/ Compliance

To promote compliance and support implementation, there will be a committee of experts. The committee will report to COP annually. The details are yet to be decided.

6. Finance

Funding climate change has always been a contentious issue between rich and poor countries. Under the convention, developed countries are bound to provide support of 100 billion$ per year to developing countries every year till 2020 through Green Climate Fund. Paris Agreement extends the 100 billion$ per year support by rich nations till 2025. For the period post 2025 a new higher financial goal will be set. With regard to financial support, for the first time in any international agreement, developing countries are also encouraged to come forward voluntarily to contribute financially.

7. Loss and damage

Warsaw international mechanism was established to address Loss and Damage due to climate change. The mechanism has been charged to develop approaches to help vulnerable countries better cope with extreme weather events and slow onset events such as sea level rise. Paris agreement extends the existing Warsaw mechanism. This is especially useful for the countries highly vulnerable to climate change such as small island countries.

Way Forward

In order to enter into force, Paris agreement required ratification (approval) by at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of GHG emissions worldwide by submitting their instruments of ratification.

On April 22, 2016, the agreement was opened for signature by States and regional economic integration organizations that are Parties to the UNFCCC at the UN Headquarters in New York. So far (5 may 2017) 146 Parties have ratified out of 197 Parties to the Convention (also called acceptance or approval). 

On 5 October 2016, the requirement for Paris Agreement to enter into the force was achieved. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.

With this, the COP begins meeting as ‘Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA)’. The first CMA 1 took place in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016.

‘Coming into force’ does not mean commencement of emission reduction obligations. Emission reduction obligations will only start in 2020.

Paris agreement is basically post 2020 agreement. The agreement will replace the first international treaty on climate change i.e. the Kyoto protocol after its second commitment period (2013-2020) ends on 31 January 2020.

Climate governance

The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting in the year 2020.