Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How Bad Will Trump Be for Climate Policy? - David Victor/MIT Technology Review

While the new president will be damaging to international coƶperation, the harm could be less than some fear.

David Victor (Credit: technologyreview.com) Click to Enlarge.
The timing could not have been worse.  On Monday of last week diplomats opened the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco.  The meeting, known as “COP-22,” is the first high-level follow-up of the highly successful meeting a year earlier in Paris.  While the Paris Agreement opened a new approach to managing the climate problem, it left a long list of essential tasks undone.  COP-22 would help chip away at that list.

Then on Tuesday the American electorate stunned the world by voting for Donald Trump.  The news reverberated through COP-22 in Morocco and has inspired hand-wringing about what will happen if America abandons climate policy and many other areas of international politics.

The reality is that a Trump administration could be harmful to the mission of protecting the planet, but not fatal.

The harm will come from bombast and the inability of the United States to be a reliable partner and leader in international diplomacy.  The Trump presidency will probably see the United States roll back payments to the climate regime—a treaty organized under the United Nations, hardly a popular organization with libertarian Republicans.  The sums are relatively small (about $3 billion initially) but politically essential to demonstrating that the United States is committed to the process.  China and many other nations already have payment plans in place.

The new Trump regime will also inflict harm, almost surely, by failing to provide leadership. The Paris Agreement was successful in part because it papered over disagreements and pushed into the future important tasks.  Paris worked because it is a “pledge and review” system—it gives countries flexibility to set their own commitments (known as “nationally determined contributions”) but then promises to review those efforts periodically to see what’s working. Pledge and review is highly suited to a problem like this—where many countries want to act but nobody is quite sure what’s best.  But this system only works if there are serious reviews, and it is unlikely that a Trump administration will provide the leadership needed to demonstrate good review mechanisms.

I’m not sure any other country will fill these gaps.  The European Union might play a bigger role, but the EU’s capacity to lead is hobbled by its own troubles at home—economic stagnation, divisions over immigration, Brexit and its contagions.  Norway will play a leadership role, as it always does, but country-wide review of economic policies is not a place where small countries can really be effective in guiding big countries (and big emitters).

China may emerge as the de facto leader in the climate regime, not just because it has the world’s largest emissions but also because the pledge and review system particularly suits its interests of wanting to show action while not becoming encumbered with inconvenient international commitments.  Over the last few years China has become a lot more vocal about the shape of the international climate regime—partly through its closer relationship with the United States and the bilateral efforts of these two countries to coƶperate on climate and energy topics even as the two governments disagree on so much else.

Read more at How Bad Will Trump Be for Climate Policy?

No comments:

Post a Comment