Following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change, American and international leaders and the civil society seem to have started building a united front to ensure the world respects its commitment to environmental protection and continues to take steps towards developing cleaner energy sources.
The Paris Agreement brings, for the first time in history, 195 nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious actions to tackle climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate movement. The agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to climate change by pursuing actions to limit the temperature increase and to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of global warming. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework are to be put in place to support action by all signatory countries, in line with their own national objectives. The agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust environmental policy.
The agreement requires all parties to put forward their resources through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these inputs in the years ahead and to report regularly on their emissions and implementation progress. The parties have scheduled global stocktake meetings every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the agreement and to inform further individual actions.
Although the president of the United States has announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, mayors from all around the country – under the initiative “Climate Mayors” – are stepping forward by signing onto a statement of support to be submitted to the United Nations, aiming to reach the emission reduction goals the U.S. made in Paris in 2015. On the group’s Twitter page, the US Climate Mayors have highlighted their commitment to intensify their actions to meet each of their cities’ current climate goals, to encourage policies meant to help reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius target and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy. They have also mentioned their aim to increase investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, to buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to stand for environmental justice. This aim comes to demonstrate cities have the potential to lead the movement for a clean environment with innovative solutions meant to strengthen the global economy and improve public health.
Furthermore, Bloomberg Philanthropies – the philanthropic foundation of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg – in partnership with others, has pledged to pay around $15 million to cover the United States’ share of Paris climate funding. In 2016, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported new initiatives to advance clean energy, improve data on the financial impact of climate change, protect the world’s oceans and save coral reefs. In a show of unity with the scientists and engineers working on sustainable energy sources, French president Emmanuel Macron has announced his intention to open the doors to American scientists to come and work in France, demonstrating climate change is something which may be worked on in partnership, as a global community, and action may prove more efficient if taken earlier rather than later.
In terms of applicability, by its terms, the Paris Agreement allows parties to submit a notice of withdrawal 3 years after it was agreed upon, which is November 4th, 2019, therefore the US may effectively withdraw from this agreement on 4th November 2020, one day after the 2020 presidential election in the United States.
How may cities, businesses and citizens effectively engage in climate action?