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Saturday, Dec 07, 2019

US out of Paris deal: What it means for global warming and nations like India

Filling the void left by the United States in climate funds and green technology development will be among key challenges for the rest of the world. But the biggest will be dealing with the emissions that US had promised it would cut

world Updated: Jul 13, 2017 23:40 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
American contribution to climate change fund and to efforts to build greener power sources will be gone, adding a significant weight to nations that want to continue with the Paris accord and the fights against global warming.
American contribution to climate change fund and to efforts to build greener power sources will be gone, adding a significant weight to nations that want to continue with the Paris accord and the fights against global warming.(NYT PHOTO)

President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of United States from the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement saying it favoured India and China. The move drew condemnation from allies and business leaders.

It was Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama who brokered the deal between 195 nations, describing it as “not a perfect landmark but having something for everyone to cheer about”.

More than two years later, Trump, has undone the hard work of hundreds of diplomats and lawyers from across the world to fulfil his poll pledge.

How Trump’s decision can hamper climate mitigation, and its implications for India:

1. Getting the yearly climate aid of $100 billion dollars without the biggest contributor US would be difficult. Europe, and few others such as Canada, Japan and Australia, with their limited growth in economy may not be able to pay for the shortfall.

2. The big casualty could be the Green Climate Fund based in South Korea. The fund was set up to fight climate change by funding technology and innovations in the developing world. More than money, the GCF will miss American technical expertise that would have helped create smarter and greener technologies for poorer nations. Several US-based institutions were collaborating with the GCF, which may end after Trump’s announcement.

3. The Loss and Damage (LND) mechanism by which rich nations would pay compensation to developing countries for climate-induced disasters could be a casualty. Rich countries have opposed the mechanism, the nuances of which are yet to be finalised, saying it would be difficult to differentiate climate disasters. The Paris agreement became possible only after wealthier nations including US agreed to the idea in principle.

4. Meeting the Paris agreement goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C or less without United States, the second biggest carbon emitter after China, will not be easy. US not being in the agreement would mean offsetting additional 3 billion tonnes of carbon in air annually by rest of the world. The world’s biggest economy that accounts for 15% of global emissions had promised to cut its share by 26 to 28 % of the 2005 level by 2025.

5. United States had sought transparency and accountability in the global climate action. On its insistence, the developing world agreed to uniform assessment and verification rules for all countries. Every country agreed to submit reports on climate action periodically for others nations to review. With the US out, such a review will have no meaning.

6. Countries also agreed to submit their climate action plans called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) every five years. The INDC has emission-reduction targets for rich nations and emission-control measures for the developing world. The first set of action plans were submitted before the Paris deal was signed. There will now be uncertainty over the next one in 2020.

7. Trump’s decision would mean the firewall of differentiated responsibilities to fight climate change in the Paris agreement would fall. The US opposed the differentiated responsibilities even when the first global mechanism to fight climate change — Kyoto Protocol — was agreed upon in 1997. Walking out of the agreement means the US will be able to create a parallel mechanism for its cheaper fossil-fuel based technologies.

8. The Paris agreement provided incentives for greener technologies like efficient solar and wind power, and geo-thermal resources. Many of these technologies are at the nascent stage of development and need funding, which may not be easily available now. The US federal fund flow for developing cleaner technologies has shrunk.

9. The Paris agreement was built on the idea that by 2050, coal-fired power plants that contribute to half of the world’s green house gas emissions would be replaced by renewable energy. That now appears a distant dream as Trump wants to continue with coal, providing India and China an argument to continue with their thermal power plants.

10. India and China can, however, stand to gain in energy sectors despite Trump’s decision as both countries have heavily invested in renewable energy. Prices of solar power in India had fallen below the thermal energy for the first time. Solar is now an easy alternate to thermal powers for villages across the world, a market India is targeting.