US braces for climate backlash as 109 countries sign Paris Agreement
Friday, January 13, 2017
The election of Donald Trump has provoked alarm among some policymakers and industry bodies who fear he will row back on the emissions reductions they have worked toward in recent months.
As climate leaders met last month in Marrakech, Morocco, to officially sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, committing the 109 signatories to firm targets on carbon reduction, U.S. policymakers pointedly used the opportunity to make clear that the nation did not share the president-elect's views.
During his presidential campaign, Trump said he would seek to dismantle the Paris Agreement, on the basis that there are more tangible environmental projects to invest in, such as ensuring global supplies of clean water. He has also made it clear that he believes "climate change is just a very expensive form of tax" for Americans because it requires disproportionate spending by developed nations.
Trump's election raises something of a question mark over the future of the global HFC phasedown, at least in the form that it was agreed recently in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Obama administration made a public show of its commitment to striking an HFC deal under the Montreal Protocol. Hillary Clinton had made HFC phasedown one of her climate priorities when she established the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in 2012, and the administration sent a heavyweight politician — current Secretary of State John Kerry — to sign the deal.
In the climate meeting in Marrakech, Kerry made pointed reference to the success of the Kigali agreement.
"I was [recently] pleased to be in Kigali, when representatives from again nearly 200 countries came together to phase down the global use and production of hydrofluorocarbons — which has been expected to increase very rapidly with a danger that is multiple of times more damaging than carbon dioxide," Kerry said. "The Kigali agreement could singlehandedly help us to avoid an entire half a degree centigrade of warming by the end of the century — while at the same time opening up new opportunities for growth in a range of industries."
But the main part of Kerry's speech underlined the global collaboration required to achieve the Paris talks, in a clear bid to reassure the other 108 nations involved.
"The global community is more united than ever not just in accepting the challenge, but in confronting it with real action, in making a difference," he said. "And no one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris."
But he also made clear that the Paris Agreement sets the world on a path toward carbon reduction.
"We have in place a foundation, based on national climate goals — each of the 109 nations have come up with their own plan, each of us setting goals that are based on our own abilities and our own circumstances. ... It provides support to countries that need help meeting the targets. It leaves no country to weather the storm of climate change alone.
"It marshals an array of tools in order to help developing nations to invest in infrastructure, technology and the science to get the job done. It supports the most vulnerable countries, so they can better adapt to the climate impacts that many of those countries are already confronting. And finally, it enables us to ratchet up ambition over time as technology develops and as the price of clean energy comes down."
Kerry also emphasized that the Paris Agreement is aiming toward moving the signatories to a "clean energy economy."
"This is critical: The Agreement calls on the parties to revisit their national pledges every five years, in order to ensure that we keep pace with the technology and that we accelerate the global transition to a clean energy economy," Kerry said. "This process — a cornerstone of our agreement — gives us a framework that is built to last, and a degree of global accountability that has never before existed."
Many within the U.S. and around the world are wondering whether degree of accountability will be tested by the new U.S. administration.
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