Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Threatened U.S. Pullout Might Help, Not Hobble, Global Climate Pact

The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words ''Paris Agreement is Done'', to celebrate the Paris U.N. COP21 Climate Change agreement.    (Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen)
A 2015 global pact for fighting climate change will benefit in some ways at least if U.S. President Donald Trump carries out a threat to pull out, backers say, in a shift from gloom about the fate of a deal that took two decades to negotiate.

The Paris Agreement requires consensus for all decisions, meaning the withdrawal of a recalcitrant United States would make it easier for emitters such as China and the European Union to design details of a trillion-dollar shift from fossil fuels.
In a step to undo environmental regulations introduced under former President Barack Obama, Trump will sign an order on Tuesday aimed at making it easier for companies to produce energy in the United States.

"There will be some advantages for other countries and there will also be extraordinary disadvantages," if the U.S. ends up quitting Paris, said Christiana Figueres, an architect of the agreement who was the U.N.'s climate chief in Paris.

"It's not a black and white scenario," she said.

She said the ideal outcome, both for the United States and other nations, was for Washington to stay and make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.  There were better investment prospects for renewable energies such as solar power than coal, she added.

The fear has long been that a pullout of the world's top economy would drain other nations' willingness to cut greenhouse gas emissions under an agreement ratified by nations as diverse as China, Saudi Arabia and African countries.

But there is an emerging rival view that Paris might be better off.

Achilles Heel
"The Achilles heel of the Paris Agreement is that it's built on consensus," said Johan Rockstrom, director of the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University.

"It's very difficult to have a negative giant in the room" able to obstruct all decisions, he said, adding that he had swung in recent weeks to reckon that a U.S. pullout would be better overall from an earlier view that it would be a "big failure".

The Paris Agreement has few binding obligations.  It lets all nations set their own goals for fighting climate change and has no penalties for non-compliance.

Governments have set a 2018 deadline to work out a rule book for the Paris Agreement, filling in details, for instance, of how nations will report and monitor their curbs on emissions.

Read more at Threatened U.S. Pullout Might Help, Not Hobble, Global Climate Pact

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