The 2015 Paris Agreement was built upon the foundation of countries pledging action to counter climate change. US President Donald Trump’s executive order overturning much of what his predecessor had promised can’t come in its way as market dynamics will continue to push the US to a clean energy economy, a New York-based environmental advocacy group has said.
It believes that notwithstanding US plans, countries like India and China are continuing on the path to bring in low carbon development in their respective economies, which is not just good for curbing global warming but also offers a cleaner and healthier lifestyle.
“We believe the US will likely stay in the Paris Agreement as the Trump team understands that being a global pariah on climate change will hurt their efforts with other countries on various issues,” David Doniger, Director for Climate and Clean Air at the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), told IANS in an email interview.
Among the initiatives rescinded by Trump is the Clean Power Plan that required the US to slash fossil fuels for energy production to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement.
Doniger, who played a crucial role in formulating the Montreal Protocol, an international pact designed to stop the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, said now is the time for countries like the India and China, as also the EU and others, to take the lead in continuing the progress on climate change.
“Addressing this issue is too critical for humanity so other countries can’t afford to sit idly by as the current US administration sends troubling signs,” he said.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by cutting greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
Doniger said the Paris Agreement was built upon the foundation of countries taking action that was in their own interests.
“Of course, politics changes in countries at times, but these short-term changes shouldn’t stop climate action. Any country that sits on the sidelines will realise that it is quickly left behind and it will become an outlier on the global stage. Being a global outcast makes it much harder to achieve other things with countries,” he said.
At present, 141 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement that asks 197 signatory countries to reduce emissions to limit the rise in global temperature.
An optimistic Doniger said coal power plants and coal mining are on the decline in the US.
Trump’s order doesn’t change those trends, he said, as power companies are moving away from coal towards energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas.
“These trends will continue even with this order as states move forward with clean energy policies, renewables continue to outcompete coal generation and market forces push towards more renewable energy.”
Doniger did not foresee any ramifications of the Trump order on emerging economies like India and China, especially when both are already on the path to low carbon emissions.
“The Trump order shouldn’t change the trajectory of clean energy in emerging economies. Both India and China are acting on clean energy because it’s in their own interests and because their citizens will reap the benefits of stronger climate action.”
“No signals in the US should change that domestic motivation. In fact, we could see an even stronger motivation for climate action in these countries as they take on an even larger leadership role,” he said.
Signaling a court battle, Doniger said Trump’s executive orders can’t even stop the US action on climate.
“Final rules can’t be undone with the stroke of a pen and market dynamics will continue to shift the US to a clean energy economy despite President Trump’s efforts. They can tear down these regulations only using the same legal process it took to build them. Their final decisions must pass muster in the courts.”
“We expect that this will end up in court,” he said.
The NRDC says the US electric power sector is in the midst of a significant transition. Solar and wind represented 65 percent of all capacity added in 2016 as both sources of renewable energy continued to surge.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)