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

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

Prioritising people in nursing care.

There has been in recent years concern that care in the NHS has not been sufficiently 'patient centred', or responsive to the needs of the patient on a case basis. It has been felt in care that it as been the patient who has had to adapt to the regime of care, rather than the other way around. Putting patients at the centre of care means being responsive to their needs and supporting them through the process of health care delivery.  Patients should not become identikit sausages in a production line. The nurses body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has responded to this challenge with a revised code of practice reflection get changes in health and social care since the previous code was published in 2008. The Code describes the professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives. Four themes describe what nurses and midwives are expected to do: prioritise people practise effectively preserve safety, and promote professionalism and trust. The

When Finance Drives Destruction

Tackling climate change means stopping the funding of rainforest destruction, says a significant study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund.  The UK's financial services have provided directly over £8.7 billion to 167 different traders, processors, and buyers of forest-risk commodities (cocoa, rubber, timber, soy, beef, palm oil, pulp & paper) from 2013 to 2021.   With direct and indirect investment,  the figure rises to a staggering £200 bn.  Whilst not all that investment is in destructive projects,  the study concludes there is little transparency on the risk.  Finance is the oil in the economic machine.  But it also drives decisions. We all know the importance of money. We borrow to invest. So much depends on it, such as company pensions.  Do we really know what our pension pots are doing? We invest for the future. But what kind of future? Is all investment good?  Much investment is bad. Investment drives the nature of our economy. It drives our decisions as individuals,