Skip to main content

Trump rolling back environmental protection

Why is the Paris climate accord significant, and does it matter that President Trump is intent on pulling the US out of the agreement?

At the Paris climate conference  in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.  For that reason alone it is a significant step - the world was doing what it should, coming together to tackle man-made climate change.  It was a beacon of hope.



Now, the rest of the world looks on in dismay as Trump sets his own course based on the assumption that climate change is a 'hoax' cooked up by America's rivals.  Whilst other countries remain determined to follow through on the agreement,  does it really have legs without the USA?

A global action plan

The accord is significant, but only as a start. It sets clear targets. The agreement sets out the first 'global action plan' to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.  With the accord, the countries agreed: 
  • a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change;
  • on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries;
  • to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.
But the plan is but an outline of what needs to be done.  It needs constant appraisal and updating, and for that it needs active engagement, political will and commitment. Currently, it is unlikely that the targets will be achieved.  Nevertheless, the Paris accord offers hope of action, and much needs to be done.

Climate Action Plans

In a sense, there isn't yet a global plan.  What we have at the moment are national plans and national commitments pulled together in the accord.

For the accord, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans.  These are not sufficient as they stand if the aim is to  keep global warming below the critical 2°C.  

For the accord to work,  the signatories agreed to revise the plans every five years to make them more robust, and with more 'ambitious' targets.   Yet, this revision process is only set to start in 2023.   On the one hand, at least nations are focused on setting plans for action on climate change. On the down side, many countries are being distracted politically with other issues.  Not the least of these is the distraction in Europe of Britain leaving the union.

It remains to be seen whether the UK will be prepared to abandon elements of its action plan on climate change in its urgent quest for post-Brexit trade deals.   A deal with Trump would certainly beg questions on environmental costs.

Does Trump matter?

So does Trump's decision to pull out matter?  The answer to that question depends on how the United States behaves in relation to emissions targets, and a lot of that depends on trade.

Entering a global trade war might deflect both the US and China from their commitments on climate change.  But it might also bring about a rethink of the way global trade works, and how it drives climate pollution.  For the latter, I am not holding my breath.  The world is too distracted and politically unstable.

In the 'developed' world, populists are holding sway with concern about migration and border controls.  They don't appear to be in any mood for cooperation on one of the major causes of migration - climate change.  Establishment politicians like Merkel are on the run.

Rolling-back from environmental protection

The Trump administration has been steadily dismantling environmental legislation.  That is set to continue despite the resignation of his head of the environmental protection agency.  Not the least is Trump's rolling back on  Obama's Clean Power Act.   As with other Obama initiatives on the environment, Trump dismisses them as 'stupid', and is intent on sweeping them away.

Trump seems to dislike almost anything from the Obama administration, but he is particular averse to anything that protects the environment.  So Trump matters.

The Clean Power Act was to have required states to produce comprehensive plans to reduce emissions from energy generation.   Trump isn't simply withdrawing the US from the Paris accord, he is actively moving in the opposite direction.   One of the biggest polluters, the USA,  is set now to increase polluting rather than rolling it back.  Also, coal output and coal burning is set to increase with removal of controls preventing new coal extraction from Federal land.

The list is long, with some 52 environment initiatives being reversed or rolled back.  So, the answer is that Trump matters.  The earliest date for the USA to pull out under the agreement would be November 4 2020.  There is still hope that a new US President might change course, but how much damage will have been done?

Author: Ray Noble


If you like this article, please help us by subscribing and getting the latest updates through the link above.







Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba