Trump’s exit from the Paris climate change deal is absurd | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Trump’s exit from the Paris climate change deal is absurd

The renewable energy sector is among the fastest growing job creators in the US. There isn’t even much rightwing support for the US president’s anti-green policies. Polls show that even among Trump supporters nearly three-quarters believe their country should have more renewable energy.

editorials Updated: Jul 13, 2017 23:39 IST
A protester holds up sign during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC, objecting to US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate accord.
A protester holds up sign during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC, objecting to US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate accord.(AFP)

By announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change, President Donald Trump has dramatically underlined that his brand of populist politics is not merely the stuff of stand-up comedians but a source of globally dangerous policy. The US was already set to fall short of its Paris agreements to cut carbon emissions by 26-28% by 2020 on a 2005 base by about 10 percentage points. Trump’s actions may increase this shortfall by a few percentage points, depending on the policy reaction at the US state and local level. California and other states will continue their own green energy plans regardless of what Trump does. More importantly, solar and wind costs have now fallen to the point that market forces alone are likely to continue to push the US away from carbon.

The US will take three years to fully pull out of the treaty, but Washington’s actions could lead to other countries following suit. Unlike many international treaties, Paris consists of a large bundle of voluntary actions rather than binding commitments. So far, there is no evidence of a bandwagon effect with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with China and the Group of Seven governments all publicly renewing their commitment to the Paris agreement and fighting climate change as a whole. At some point, this global response to Trump may require other countries to even consider compensating for the additional carbon emissions that the US may release.

The absurdity of Trump’s decision is all the more evident given the economic status of fossil fuels and clean energy in the US. The renewable energy sector is among the fastest growing job creators in the US. Solar power alone employs 370,000 people versus the combined coal power and mining sectors which employ 130,000. And there is little that can save the ranks of coal miners if only because what they do is being increasingly automated. There isn’t even much rightwing support for the US president’s anti-green policies. Polls show that even among Trump supporters nearly three-quarters believe their country should have more renewable energy. The US’s largest oil companies have declared their support for Paris. It is almost a matter of irrelevance that Trump also falsely claimed India was asking for billions of dollars in aid in return for conforming to Paris when, in fact, all such assistance is being allocated to least developed countries and some island states.

India should up its diplomatic and policy game in response. Part of this strategy can be to work with Japan, Europe or even new strategic partners like the United Arab Emirates on accelerating India’s own transition to renewable energy at an even more aggressive pace than today. It also needs to give more thought to making the International Solar Alliance more tangible. New Delhi’s stance has traditionally been to be a responsible climate player by focusing on its own domestic energy transition. Its accomplishments on that front are praiseworthy. But Trump’s action means it should contemplate a more global role.