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Special Report: Editor's comment - The US withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

by Martin Menachery on Jul 27, 2017

Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery, editor, Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

By Trump administration breaking away from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Unites States abandoned a vital, strategic goal for the country - to be the world's frontrunner in alternative energy, a position the United States was heading towards under President Obama.

The climate agreement, reached in Paris in 2015, after years of negotiation, aims to keep Earth’s temperature within two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels. Meeting that goal would have required the US to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gasses moves that Trump said would wipe out the jobs of millions of Americans. Many economists disagree with this.

The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon, following only China. Beijing, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris accord, recently cancelling construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and investing billions in massive wind and solar projects.

The comparative advantages, strategic positioning, and scale of the economy allow the Unites States to make the required investments and sustainable innovations outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. If continued, the Unites States would have carried influence for many years as the global leader in clean energy.

The Trump administration broke with the fight against desertification, efforts to protect hydrological systems and prevent rising sea levels, and impeding the growth of extreme climate event related casualties, to name a few.

Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as a result of the US president’s decision because America’s pollution contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest that the withdrawal could result in emissions of up to three billion tons of additional carbon dioxide a year enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

The decision has produced a social and political response throughout the Unites States and the rest of the world that moved from criticism to resistance. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, for example, pledged to donate US$15 million that the UN stands to lose from the withdrawal of United States from the climate agreement, ensuring that an American delegation will maintain a seat at the table. Supporters of the accord, including some leading US business figures, called Trump’s move a blow to international efforts to tackle dangers for the planet posed by global warming.

Oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total are among a group of large corporations supporting a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions in order to address climate change.

Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew N. Liveris issued the following statement in response to Trump’s announcement: “Dow is the leading materials science company in the world and innovates and manufactures many low carbon technologies that enable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs and economic value in the United States.”

Indeed, many of the biggest companies in the United States are its most innovative. And it has been their engagement with climate change that has led to significant green product innovations and process improvements that have saved businesses countless dollars in energy costs.

Fossil fuel energy companies, for their part, have long faced public pressure to recognise the global threat from climate change and ensure they play their part in the wider energy transition.

The United States prides itself as being the world’s leading innovator. There is therefore hope that its companies can make both America and the planet great again – even if its leader refuses to engage.


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