US President-elect Donald Trump seems to have a change of heart on the multi national Paris Agreement on climate change. In a U-turn from his stand on the issue during his campaign days, Trump said that he will keep an ‘open mind’ about pulling out of the deal. Trump had infamously tweeted that climate change was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive. One of Trump’s main campaign agendas included scrapping the Paris Agreement off his table if he came to power.
The trajectory in which American emissions move is not dependent on just Trump’s flick of a pen. Of course the main drivers are technology and markets. But due to easing regulations on fracking, coal is unlikely to make a big comeback into the US energy industry and it will have a tough time pricing out natural gas.
The harsh fact is that for enough carrots to be brought on the table, the US role and presence in the agreement is vital. The agreement has to create incentives that are enough for signatories to comply with the agreement. The momentum for the agreement manifests not just from the cooperating spirit of signatories but also derived from the heft that it enjoys in global affairs.
Trump’s election laid the ground for the Marrakech Action Proclamation which calls for political attention at the highest level to stay on the course of climate control through pledged carbon emission cut downs and investments in green energy.
In hindsight, when you compare the Paris Agreement with the likes of Kyoto Protocol, this agreement doesn’t hang on a legal tipscale. The Kyoto Protocol faced a major setback when the US pulled out denying ratification for the treaty. The Paris Agreement is already in place and in effect. Almost all of the signatories see this as a deal in their best interests.
What makes the deal unique is that it offers a legal structure that captures what other signatories do and via the process of peer pressure and learning, indicates the way forward for the ultimate aim of decarbonisation. It was conceived as an agreement that could be as inclusive as possible. It even allowed non-signatories to partake in carbon markets.
There are ramifications for the US as well if Trump decides to pull out. There is also the three-year cool off period for exiting the Paris Agreement. But, the announcement itself has done all the political damage and this deal will prove to be just one of the many straining points between a Trump-led US and Europe. Many countries including US ally France has said clearly that it will consider imposing a carbon tax on US products if Trump actually walks out of the deal.
The way ahead remains cloudy but it seems that Trump will look to gain symbolic victories over Obama as he enters office. Scrapping an executive order to gain that would’ve been easier and wiser than to draw the wrath of the entire international community.