While all eyes were on the election, the US achieved one of its worst accolades in history

Donald Trump
Tracy Keeling

The US election consumed much of the news cycle on 4 November. But while all eyes were watching the vote counts in various states, the US achieved one of its worst accolades in history. Because on the same day, it became the first country ever to officially withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

A hindrance, or a help?

As the BBC reported, Donald Trump announced his intention to leave the agreement in 2017. But due to rules that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama helped to make, a swift exit was impossible. The rules ensured Trump couldn’t give official notification of leaving until November 2019 and had to endure a 12-month notice period. That period ended on 4 November.

The Paris Agreement is essentially a global pact between countries to attempt to tackle the climate crisis, and avoid worst scenario outcomes. As the UN notes, the now 195 signatories to it have agreed:

to transform their development trajectories so that they set the world on a course towards sustainable development, aiming at limiting warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

Trump previously used UN climate events as a platform to promote fossil fuels. So his administration didn’t appear to use its influence at such climate events to help out the planet. In fact, Trump’s policy positions in office have so clearly been anti-environmental, anti-wildlife, and anti-doing squat about the climate crisis, it’s hard to imagine his administration was anything other than a hindrance at such talks.

Nonetheless, as the world’s biggest carbon polluter in history – the US army alone is said to be “a bigger polluter than 100 countries combined” – the country’s cooperation with the agreement is vital in terms of international action to save the climate. And, as ex-climate change official in the Obama administration Andrew Light says, leaving the agreement “obviously hurts the US reputation”.

It does also run a risk of encouraging other countries to follow. But Peter Betts, a former UK and EU negotiator in the global climate negotiations, says that’s unlikely:

I don’t think anyone will follow Mr Trump out of Paris. Nobody has in the last four years and I don’t think they will in the future.

Legacies

Across the board, however, global political action on the climate crisis has been severely lacking so far. For example, the UN Environment Programme revealed this year that the global community hasn’t fully met a single one of the 20 biodiversity targets governments set a decade ago. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in 2018 that the Paris Agreement ambitions aren’t enough to limit global warming to 1.5C. To put this in perspective, 2020’s catastrophic wildfires, ice melting, and extreme weather events are happening at 1.2C warming compared to the pre-industrial era.

So the global community needs to get its act together, and fast. There have been a number of bold promises made on carbon emissions reductions recently, by China and Japan. Meanwhile, non-federal leaders across the US – from tribal governments, city halls, cultural institutions, and more – have now formed “the largest American coalition in support of climate action in history” in defiance of Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement. But what the world needs, from governments, civil society, and everything in between, is decisive action – and now.

Trump will go down in history as a man intent on destroying the world. But what truly matters to the rest of us is getting on with the monumental job of trying to save it.

Featured image via C-Span / YouTube

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Trump is just a fly in the soup. Progress will happen without the “Offical” US presence, and it’s a blessing this loser doesn’t have a part to play in this any longer.
      The losing aspect is observable to anyone in real time .
      A poem by Piet Hein
      The Arithmetic of Cooperation

      When you’re adding up committees
      There’s a useful rule of thumb;
      that talents make a difference,
      but follies make a sum.

    2. “Trump will go down in history as a man intent on destroying the world.” Misses the point. In reality Don Petomane is enchanted by himself and unable to perceive beyond his own ego, additionally he is unable to disguise his egoistic nature. Unlike Obama who managed to suggest he was not the egomaniac he is until it became obvious at his inaugeration when he was so up his own anus he couldn’t even remember the words of the presidential oath. That’s when I stopped thinking he would be assassinated because he was the stop-gap stooge the Yankee elite needed. Don Petomane is a desperate ‘outsider’ with regard to that political elite. Maybe that’s why the ‘swamp’ was never ‘drained’? My own feelings abut the Paris Agreement and the ‘Paris Club’ is that they will begin to be affective once it becomes plain the shit has hit the fan and not before. Up until then ‘Environmentalism’ will remain a business and investment portfolio (a route into any countrys tax revenues), which is where we are now. There is no monetary (short-term) profit to be made tidying up our mess.

      1. “There is no monetary (short-term) profit to be made tidying up our mess” is utterly true and condemns our civilisation. Capitalism itself, not some variation of it, is an existential threat to life. What are we doing about it? We re-elect Tories; we suspend Labour’s best leader in many decades; we think that we can go on like this indefinitely.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.