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Following today's news that President Trump has removed the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, Jonathan Shopley provides a short reflection on what this means for business and climate.
The White House’s long anticipated withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement was announced today. The arguments and petitions of G7 leaders, a majority of US energy companies and an impressive number of the US’s largest multinationals did not change President Trump’s view that staying in the Agreement would encourage nations of the world to expect too much from the U.S. in funding their low carbon development trajectories – to the detriment of American citizens.
The US’s departure will likely spur China, the EU, India, Brazil and other big emitter countries to stay the course and there could be some interesting jostling for leadership and influence amongst them. For that reason, the continuance of the Paris Agreement is not immediately under threat.
What will come under pressure is the support of smaller, less developed countries which signed the Agreement with the expectation that their efforts to reduce emissions while growing their economies would be funded by richer nations. The US decision will deliver a body-blow to those expectations, and some of the more trenchant developing countries may be tempted to cut and run.
Where the US will be missed most is within the UNFCCC negotiating process. The US’s enduring concern for the proper accounting of national mitigation plans and the accurate reporting of progress has brought much needed discipline and accountability. US science, climate data and analytics has been a crucial and critical contribution to the science-based decision-making that is central to setting overarching climate stabilization targets. Others will need to step up to ensure the Agreement is properly grounded and implemented.
What will not suffer as much as may be expected is the progress that the US will make in reducing its emissions. Action at company, city and state level across a significant proportion of America is well entrenched, strong, and committed to managing climate risks and seizing opportunities arising from the US’s (narrowing) lead in clean-tech innovation. These actors are not looking to the Federal Government for leadership on climate – they are providing that themselves.