The Dummies’ Guide to understanding Donald Trump’s Paris climate deal decision

Le Donald finally announced his decision to withdraw the United States yesterday in a televised Rose Garden speech. We sort of knew what was coming – what with his claims that global warming is an expensive BS scam, created by “Jgina” to undercut U.S manufacturing and steal more jobs – but his double speak in dealing with the NAFTA and general eccentricity, if you will, kept the world on the edge hoping the POTUS was going to have a change of mind.

He didn’t. In a bid “to fulfil [my] solemn duty to the United States and its citizens”. Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburg, not Paris” and a deal that “hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries” was not “going to happen while [I’m] President, I’m sorry”.

If you are thinking: “I’m sorry, but what does this Paris Climate Change Agreement do and why is it a big deal that he’s pulling out?”, you are in luck. Here’s a broken down guide for you to completely understand the issues surrounding the big story.

So what’s this Paris Climate Change Agreement?

The Paris Climate Change Agreement is a global accord reached by 195 countries of the world who met in Paris in 2015. They agreed to take steps designed to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

We have written elsewhere on YNaija that:

“The purport of the agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change especially developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives by putting in place appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework.”

To achieve this goal, each of the countries in Paris, made pledges to reduce its own contributions to the damaging of our planet, rising sea levels and carbon emissions among other things. According to Nick Juliano, “President Barack Obama said the U.S. would reduce its emissions by 2025 to about 27 percent below the level in 2005, identifying his domesticpolicies such as the Clean Power Plan and stricter automobile fuel-efficiency requirements as key contributors to that pledge”.

Even Nigeria’s President Buhari made promises and commitments based on his fears about the drying up of the Lake Chad, soil erosion in the South East and the climate change-induced accelerated sea level rise that is already threatning the very existence of our revenue nerve centres, the Niger Delta and Lagos as well as Nigeria’s other coastal cities.

In March 2017, President Buhari ratified the Paris Climate Change instrument.

So why won’t Trump do it?

APART FROM THE FACT THAT HE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN ALL THE SCIENTIFIC PROOFS OF GLOBAL WARMING?

Okay, if we are being fair and we go by his pull out speech, then it’s because the pledges made by the Obama administration towards the Paris deal will greatly hamper United States’ coal, oil and manufacturing industries as well as negatively affect job creation, especially for those who want to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries”.

By some of the world’s top polluting countries, Trump means China and India – two countries who are on the come up in terms of manufacturing and who have no obligations under the Agreement until 2030 because they claim “their emissions would eventually level off after rising for several more years“.

You could also consider the fact that Trump’s biggest fans are not fans of America being in the deal (side eye Steve Bannon). Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Scott Pruitt in a radio chat with Hugh Hewitt (of Obama’s environmental approach): “It’s just poor leadership. It’s poor focus”.

“When you look at the past administration’s environmental record, I mean, the past administration is viewed as the environmental saviour. But when you look at air attainment in this country, we’re at 40 percent non-attainment right now on ozone. About 140 million people live in non-attainment areas for air quality, under air quality programs.”

The decision on whether to stay or leave the deal famously pit Trump’s already divided camp against each other. With Trump, Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt urging the abandonment and Jared Kushner, Ivanka and Rex Tillerson urging him to honour the Agreement.

Oh! before we forget…

Trump arrived at his decision to abandon the agreement based on his preconceived bias, advice from the none-but-one environmental experts (actually, even Scott Pruitt is just a former Attorney-General from Oklahoma) and as well summed up by Elizabeth Kolbert of The Newyorker, by dismissing “decades’ worth of research by the country’s most prestigious scientific organisations. He needed to resist pleas from the U.S.’s staunchest allies; ignore appeals from many of its largest corporations, including ExxonMobil; and disregard the counsel of his Secretary of State, [Rex Tillerson].”

What now?

Now that Trump has abandoned the agreement as opposed to just allowing it to suffer a natural death in Congress at the stage of ratification, the U.S. will have to follow the letter of the Agreement which means it may take up to four years to fully exit the Paris deal. A Politico report projects that the exit may not formally “take effect until at least November 4, 2020 — a little over two months before the end of his first term”.

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