Last updated June 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm
Unlike the evidence of climate change, there’s much to debate about the involvement of the US in the Paris climate agreement. Climate policy expert Luke Kemp thinks they could do more harm than good by staying in the game.
Conventional wisdom is that international cooperation on climate change is the only chance we have of making any meaningful impact. If it works for the International Space Station, it’s got to work for the environment, right?
But should we be far more pragmatic about the politics?
The answer is yes, according to climate and environmental policy expert Luke Kemp from Australian National University.
Debate has surrounded the current US president Donald Trump and whether or not he will back out of the Paris climate agreement that the US signed up to in 2016. During his campaign trail he promised to cancel the agreement. His final decision is expected later this month.
Kemp comments in Nature Climate Change that the rest of the world would be better off if the international community stopped bending over backwards to play nice with the USA, and be honest with ourselves about the reality.
“A rogue US can cause more damage inside rather than outside of the Paris Agreement on climate. Having the US remain under Paris would reveal the weaknesses of the agreement, prevent new opportunities from emerging, and gift greater leverage to a recalcitrant administration.
Continued US membership in the Paris Agreement would be symbolic and have no effect on US emissions. The Paris Agreement is procedural: it requires a new pledge every five years, but doesn’t limit the actions of the US. The US can, and likely will, miss its targets and cut climate financing regardless of Paris.”
Not only is this position confronting on its own, but it begs the question of what the impact on other nations would be. If we lose the US, will more and more countries show themselves the door?
“There is little evidence to suggest that the US dropping out will trigger a ‘domino effect’. Countries are more likely to withdraw or renege on their pledges because the US misses its target, eliminates its financing and reveals how weak the Paris Agreement really is.
If the US remains under the agreement it will keep a veto in the negotiations. The US could use its voice and veto to water down the rules and details of the Paris Agreement, which are currently being negotiated. Giving the former head of ExxonMobil a seat at the table is a terrible idea.
Wanting the US to remain is a short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction. The international community should be much more worried about the actions of the US, rather than whether they are symbolically cooperating.”
So let’s say this vision of the future does come to fruition. What’s next?
“A withdrawal could trigger new opportunities to emerge, such as carbon border adjustments and renewed European and Chinese leadership. Trade measures and an EU-China climate bloc will be far more effective than Paris ever could have been. While Paris is fragile, international climate action can be antifragile: the shock of Trump could make action stronger by allowing trade measures and emboldened leadership to blossom.”
What do you think? Is it time to say a huge goodbye to the USA?