US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Dev countries stand must firm

25Jun 2017
Deo Mfugale
Guardian On Sunday
US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Dev countries stand must firm

ALMOST two weeks after USA President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, other countries have strengthened their resolve to deal with climate change and have in fact pledged to step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to address the climate change impacts.

The USA becomes the third country not to be party to the Agreement after Nicaragua and Syria.

The Paris Agreement is one of the few global accords that have been signed by almost all countries in the world and as the Trump administration withdrew from the landmark agreement about a fortnight ago, American scientists reported that 2016 tallied the second-largest rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide ever recorded.

Carbon dioxide is the "greenhouse" gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year's increase in CO2 was nearly double the average pace since measurements began in 1979.

The Paris climate agreement which President Trump withdrew the U.S. from, requires nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to prevent rising global temperatures and as such, reduce impacts of climate change.

Many people are dismayed by the USA withdrawal from the Agreement, with some non-governmental organizations in Tanzania strongly condemning President Trump’s decision as a betrayal to a global cause.

The Country Director for Climate Action Network (CAN Tanzania), Sixbert Mwanga says that the Paris Agreement represents an unprecedented global consensus on an issue ofextreme urgency, a collective agreement by the world’s governments to do what is needed to limitglobal warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

The decision to withdraw the U.S. from theAgreement signals that the Trump administration is in total discord with the rest of the world.

“President Trump’s about-turn on the Paris accord should serve as a wakeup call for Africans to start taking climate change into their own hands. If those that pollute the world’senvironment are not willing to step up and help clean it, we Africans must roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves.” said Kaddu Sebunya, President of the African Wildlife Foundation.

Many developing countries including Tanzania depend on U.S. funds to help them finance climate action andadapt to the impacts they are already experiencing from climate change. Many of these countries,and the global institutions built to direct funds to them, will feel the pain of Trump’s promises toslash climate funding. However, this is an area where other countries will have to move in to fill the gap.

"Available climate data show that in the future climate change impacts will be more severe and livelihoods for the poor will be affected badly. This is why weare very much concerned about Trump’s decisions towards Paris Agreement. We welcome strongand united statements and voices from all other world leaders that they remain committed to their pledges, goals, policies and actions to reduce emissions.

This is because, unlike the view of the current US administration,scientists over the world see the Paris Agreement as an engine for green growth and jobs,” says Mr. Mwanga, adding that Tanzania stands to gain a lot from the Paris Agreement.

Although the US has decided to pull out of the Agreement, the ambition to raise emissions cuts which the Agreement has createdremains in place.Parties to the agreement must now step up their pledges in order to fill the gap likely to be left by the US withdrawal.

“The fact that the world’s second biggest polluter has walked away from its climate change commitments isgravely unjust, but we must respond by redoubling our efforts. Those on the front lines ofclimate change demand nothing less,” says Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam

The Chairperson of Tanzania Special Organisation on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation (TASONABI), Bariki Kaale, says that the withdrawal of the USA from Paris Agreement gives Tanzania and other developing countries opportunity to step up their role in combating climate much as their contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gas is negligible.

“We should rethink about the principle of the polluter pays because the major polluter has run away from that responsibility. The situation now calls for governmentto make national budget allocation for climate change mitigation and adaptation. It must also step up enforcement of environment rules, regulation and laws in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kaale.

He explains that even without the withdrawal of the US pledge to cut its emissions by between 25 and 28 percent, targets set by countries in their Intended Nationally Determine Contributions (INDC)still fell short of the required contributions to meet the 1.5C global temperature rise within the century.

“Now that the USA has withdrawn her pledge, Tanzania and other developing countries must step up efforts and raise their INDCs,” he says.

But the outcry against Trump did not only come from Tanzania; it also came from his own government officials. A senior U.S. diplomat in China has reportedly resigned in protest of Trump's move to exit the Paris agreement.

Acting US Ambassador to China David Rank reportedly called a meeting at the embassy to announce his departure, stating that as "a parent, a patriot and a Christian," he could not in good conscienceformally participate in the US withdrawing from the accords.

"Such a move shows the level of utter disdain for Trump and his policies by senior American diplomats," Brett Bruen, former Director of Global Engagement for the Obama administration, was quoted by the media.

The defiance against President Trump has crept far and wide within the US itself as13 US cities have banded together to post deleted climate change information and research from the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website that was notoriously scrubbed by the Trump administration.

In May, Chicago became the first city to host the deleted pages, and now other mayors are following in Rahm Emanuel's footsteps by creating their city's own "Climate Change is Real" website.

The "Climate Change is Real" website contains information on the basic science behind climate change, the ways weather is impacted from increased greenhouse gas emissions and actions the federal government has taken to reduce the impact.

Major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle have joined the effort.

According to a statement from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's office, the pages were launched to ensure that the public has readily available access to research information the EPA has developed over the last many decades.

"Deleting federal webpages does not reset the scientific consensus that climate change is real," Lee said. "The American people are entitled to the publicly-funded EPA research on climate change. And while the federal government continues to undermine the progress we've made on climate change, cities are taking a stand.

San Francisco will continue our fight against climate change by taking aggressive local actions to protect our citizens and planet.”
Other cities, academic institutions and organizations can post the same information to their own websites.

But there are also views that the US President’s withdrawal from Paris Agreement will isolate the country as the world remains committed to tackling climate change.

A statement published recently by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says that US President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement will be a huge blow to the country’s economy and its global standing. It directly contradicts the President's aims for America to be great again and play a lead role on the world stage

"Leaders across the world have made clear that the commitment to keep global temperature rise to 2°C, with the aim of staying below 1.5°C, remains a priority. As is widely recognised, this is crucial for economic growth and the health of future generations,” says IIED Director Andrew Norton

"In leaving the Paris Agreement and committing to a high-carbon economy, President Trump will not only put the US firmly on a destructive path, but will also damage the country's reputation as a place to do business. As the rest of world works together to deliver the aims of Paris – the US will be left behind,” explains Director Norton

He adds that President Trump is also betraying his own supporters who saw in his campaign the possibility of better jobs and livelihoods.
According to the statement, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said recently, “Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future.

While the US remains a party to the agreement – as legally it will take a few years to withdraw – it's vital they honour their climate commitments, particularly the climate finance to help the world's poorest, most vulnerable countries adapt to the destructive impacts of climate change and support them in becoming low carbon economies.”

It is critically important at this time that other governments, companies, cities and local governments stick to the ambition of the Paris Agreement and provide the global leadership role on climate action that the Trump administration has abandoned.