Even though the Paris climate accord went into effect recently after being ratified by more than 100 nations, the annual two-week United Nations meeting to discuss how to limit the impact of global warming opens Monday with concern over the upcoming US presidential election.
While about 20,000 officials will meet in Marrakech, Morocco looking to agree on new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other human activities most experts believe are causing the Earth’s temperatures to rise significantly, BBC News and other media outlets have reported that some participants that much of the progress they have already made could soon be undone.
If Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has previously called climate change a “hoax,” is able to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton, he has vowed to pull out of the Paris accord while also increasing coal production – the “dirtiest fossil fuel,” according to Bloomberg – in the US. That has some representatives concerned that a Trump victory may throw the process into “turmoil.”
“If you’ve got Donald Trump, we can say whatever we like and it won’t make the slightest bit of difference at all,” Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment in London, explained to Bloomberg. “If he gets in, then a side-effect might be that the USA will pull out of the climate negotiations. It’s a very worrying situation.”
“Electing a climate science conspiracy theorist like Trump would make America a global laughing stock and embarrassment, all the while relinquishing our leadership role in the world… Trump’s moral failure to acknowledge the climate crisis might very well mean planetary disaster if he is elected,” added Khalid Potts of the Sierra Club, in an interview with BBC News.
How much impact could a Trump presidency have?
The Paris accord was signed by 193 countries last December and recently became international law after it was ratified by at least 55 countries representing more than 55% of global emissions, BBC News noted. The agreement came after several years of failed negotiations and will seek to limit the global rise in temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Furthermore, the climate deal hopes to find a way to limit warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius and work toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions, according to Bloomberg. The two-week conference that begins on Monday is supposed to lay the groundwork for how to achieve those goals, but the looming threat of the possible post-election withdrawal of the US is causing many to fear that their efforts could be all for naught.
Earlier this year, Trump said that he would “cancel” the US’s participation in the agreement if elected, calling the accord “bad for US business,” according to BBC News. However, as French environment minister Segolene Royal told the UK media outlet, that is easier said than done, as the agreement itself prohibits any participating country from withdrawing for at least three years, followed by an additional 12-month notice period, meaning “there will be four stable years.”
Even so, Reuters noted that the Paris accord allows each country to decide for themselves how to combat climate change and contains no sanctions for non-compliance, meaning that it is possible to ignore the Obama administration’s vows to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent of 2005 level by the year 2025, without formally pulling out of the agreement.
In a phone interview with Bloomberg, Alain St. Ange, the minister for tourism and culture at the Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean currently dealing with rising sea levels, said “We hope the USA will continue down the path of ensuring the leadership they’ve shown” so that the world can see that “if America can do it, we should also be able to do it.” Likewise, Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told reporters there was “no… turning back” on the accords. “We can only advance.”
Image credit: Thinkstock