Paris, US and the ‘Coalition of the Unwilling’
By Louis Rumao:
President Donald Trump has pulled out the US from the landmark Paris climate accord of 2015 signed by 195 countries. The US now joins a ‘Coalition of the Unwilling,’ which includes Syria and Nicaragua. Elsewhere, the Paris agreement once again highlights the urgent need for the tyre industry to discard its poor environmental image
The Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) has been described as an incentive for and driver of fossil fuel divestment, and the developed nations are to finance a climate fund to help developing nations for action on climate change.
Candidate Trump, the first and possibly the only “non-politician” candidate ever to run for the presidency of the US, campaigned on some radical promises, among them: building a wall on the southern border, paid for by Mexico; getting out of the NATO; pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA); stopping Muslim immigration and simplifying the tax code to reduce regulatory and tax burdens.
He was given no chance of winning, not only because of his bombastic, non-statesman style, but because his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was highly promoted by the liberal media and the political establishment. Although, Clinton won a majority of popular votes, Trump won the Electoral College votes, and hence the election.
Now, as President, Trump is striving to keep his campaign promises, and as promised, he declared on June 1, 2017 that he was pulling the US from the PCA as “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty.” It now joins a “Coalition of the Unwilling,” which includes Syria and Nicaragua!
He also argued the PCA has disadvantaged the US “to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American businesses and taxpayers to absorb the cost.” He said the US could try to re-enter the deal under more favorable terms or work to establish an entirely new accord. The White House assured everyone that the US is committed to “robust efforts to protect the environment.” Also, the decision will not relax major US regulations on power plants and car rules currently aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
Still, as expected, reaction to the decision was fast and furious, from environmental activists, his political opponents and overseas. The leaders of France, Germany and Italy joined “to note with regret” the Trump decision and express doubts about any change to the accord. “We frankly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated,” jointly wrote French President Macron, German Chancellor Merkel and Italian Premier Gentiloni, an obvious rebuff to President Trump.
The prior global climate agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, was a failure. The Kyoto Protocol attempted to use harsh enforcement provisions to ensure that participating nations would achieve a goal of 7 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. This goal only applied to developed nations, while developing nations like China and India were given a pass. The uneven distribution of burdens led to the US never adopting the protocol, and of the nations that did promise emissions cuts, only the EU, which negotiated as a bloc, was compliant.
With this context, the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) was designed to be a weak and voluntary accord.
It is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus in December 2015. As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified it.
What PCA does
In the agreement, each country self-determines its own contribution it should make in order to mitigate global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date. The aim of the convention is described in Article 2, “enhancing the implementation” of the UNFCCC as follows:
Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
Countries furthermore aim to reach “global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible”. The agreement has been described as an incentive for and driver of fossil fuel divestment.
The contributions that each individual country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goal are determined by all countries individually and called “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). Article 3 encourages them to be “ambitious”, “represents a progression over time” and sets “with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement”.
In the Paris Agreement, the developed countries reaffirmed the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and agreed to continue mobilizing finance at the level of $100 billion a year until 2025. The commitment refers to the pre-existing plan to provide US$100 billion a year in aid to developing countries for actions on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Time to Panic?
No, regardless of the dire predictions from some activists. Consider some of the several mitigating possibilities:
Under the normal rules of the agreement, the United States cannot withdraw from the PCA until November 2020, when the next presidential election takes place, and possibly a new president could reverse Trump’s decision.
Before that happens, overseas leaders may soften their stance and modify the PCA to Trump’s liking.
Thirdly, Jessica F. Green, an New York University professor and frequent contributor on environmental policy topics, explains why the Trump decision would not roll back the considerable U.S. progress on environmental protection. She notes, “States, cities and many companies in the United States realize that a sensible climate policy is prudent financially as well as for the environment.”
Significantly, US companies, including tyre makers, are pursuing green options and US utilities are phasing out coal-powered plants, thus in reality, the US government does not control — or make — many of the decisions that affect the climate.
The PCA once again brings up the role of tyres in environmental pollution. Tyre has a very poor environmental image. One look at the mountains of used tyres will tell you the whole story. The industry is aware of it and the arrival of “green tyres” show the concern the industry has on the issue. The tyre has been partially reworked during the past decade to make it more ecologically sustainable.
The main villains in the tyre is the use of petroleum-based oils and also the fuel guzzling impact the tyre exerts on the vehicle.
Aaround 86 per cent of this effect related to the amount of the extra fuel that tyres cause engines to burn to overcome the rubber’s resistance to rolling, according to a senior Michelin official. Every 3.8 liters of oil that remains unburned keeps 8.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide out the air. The new low-rolling resistant tyres are the answer from the industry. Also new renewable raw materials are being developed in the making of the tyre.
The PCA will increase the pace of change in tyre industry in its drive to make tyre less harmful to the environment.