United States President Donald Trump celebrated his first 100 days in office with a speech in which, among other things, he promised to further dilute his country’s commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. Mr Trump claimed that China, India and Russia have a free pass under the Paris agreement until 2030, repeating similar charges made by members of his administration earlier. He has already signed an executive order asking US federal agencies to ignore earlier regulations about emissions for power plants and incorporating climate impact in government environmental reviews. Now, it seems, Mr Trump plans more such actions.
Unsurprisingly, the US president’s comments are factually incorrect when it comes to what India and China have committed to doing under Paris. Unlike the earlier Kyoto Protocol, the Paris agreement requires actions by both rich and poor nations. China committed to reduce carbon emissions 60-65% unit of GDP by 2030 from 2005 levels. India, whose per capita income is much smaller than those of the US and China, nonetheless made a similar promise of 30-35% reductions. Even under President Barack Obama’s Paris pledges, the US would have probably fallen just short of the 26-28% reductions by 2030 required by the agreement. Mr Trump’s earlier executive order, if fully implemented, would have seen the US’s emissions reductions fall to 14%. If Mr Trump goes further, such as watering down US vehicle emissions standards or reducing tax credits for renewable energy, the US will fall further behind on its Paris commitments.
There are few world leaders as aware of the danger posed by climate change as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While he is not an instinctive multilateralist, Modi should consider taking a more proactive role in rallying the rest of the world to save Paris. One part of this policy would be to engage Mr Trump and point out some of the fallacies in his arguments. Among other things, the US is a world leader in green technology and would benefit economically from Paris. Another part would be to turn to the European Union, Japan and China on how they could work together to plug any holes the US may leave behind. Providing additional climate funding for the least developed and island countries could be a start. At home, New Delhi should redouble its efforts to get its star-crossed nuclear energy plans and natural gas investments up and going – both would help reduce India’s energy carbon footprint. It seems likely Mr Trump’s anti-green policies are going to face considerable legal and local political resistance at home. But that does not mean India can afford to be complacent.