U.S. Becomes Lone Global Outsider On Paris Climate Agreement

On Tuesday, Syria announced that it will be joining the Paris Agreement, meaning the U.S. is now the only country in the world that has said it will not participate in the global climate change initiative. Syria’s decision comes shortly after Nicaragua, one of the remaining opposing countries, signed on to the accord last month.

At COP21 in Paris in 2015, more than 190 countries came together to adopt the accord, what the Obama administration called “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.” The agreement, which officially entered into force in November 2016, aims to keep a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees C and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

However, in an announcement made in June, President Donald Trump said he planned to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. He claimed the accord places “onerous energy restrictions” and a “draconian financial and economic burden” on the U.S. The announcement faced enormous backlash across clean energy groups and even big names such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Robert Iger, who both resigned from advisory roles under the Trump administration.

“We’re getting out,” Trump said at the June press conference. “But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

The Sierra Club points out that no country can formally submit its intent to withdraw until three years after the date of entry into force. It would then take one year to fully withdraw – meaning the earliest the U.S. could officially withdraw is the day after the 2020 election.

“As if it wasn’t already crystal clear, every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position,” says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, in a press release. “Trump’s desperate moves to help corporate polluters by refusing to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis shows that he neither cares about leadership nor does he understand it. Thankfully, leaders in cities and states around the U.S. are taking action and committing to transitioning to 100 percent clean energy, proving that it’s not America that’s devoid of leadership – only the White House.”

Indeed, state and local governments have remained committed to the Paris Agreement and launched climate initiatives of their own.

However, according to a recent DNV GL report examining the world’s energy mix in 2050, even though 85% of global electricity production is predicted to come from renewable energy sources, the world is not yet on course to achieve the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement. DNV GL predicted that humanity will exhaust the 2 degrees C carbon budget – the amount of CO2 that can be emitted without triggering dangerous climate change – by 2041.

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