“We’ll always have Paris”

IMG_2427a…So goes the iconic phrase from the end of Casablanca. However, on 1 June 2017, President Donald Trump announced the US’ withdrawal from the widely respected Paris Agreement on climate change. What implications could this have for the agreement’s success? Unlike Ilsa and Rick from Casablanca, could it be that we will not always have Paris?

The Paris Agreement, adopted on 12 December 2015 and, as of today, ratified by 147 out of 197 signatories, is a commitment towards a sustainable, low carbon future. Its key aims are to curb global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to equip countries to deal with the consequences of climate change.

According to President Trump, the agreement is at odds with his “America First” mantra as complying with its terms could result in an apparent loss of 2.7 million US jobs. However, President Trump’s decision, somewhat counter-intuitively, may have actually galvanised support for the Paris Agreement around the world and given it an even greater impetus.

In Europe: Immediately on the back of President Trump’s announcement, Italy, Germany and France issued a joint statement reiterating these countries’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, stating that “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies“.

In America: Tesla’s Elon Musk and Walt Disney’s Bob Iger have announced their intentions to resign from White House advisory councils. And even more impressively, Michael Bloomberg is now spearheading the creation of a coalition of thirty American cities, three American states, and over 100 American companies which pledges to uphold America’s obligations under the Paris Agreement and even attempt to replace it as a signatory, once America fully withdraws. The coalition is currently in negotiations with the UN to be accepted as a signatory entity. This blog will follow the developments of this coalition.

In China: China also made it clear at the recent EU-China summit in Brussels that it considered President Trump’s actions to be an error. Although the summit was expected to produce a formal statement of cooperation on climate change between the EU and China, disagreements over trade intervened. Nevertheless, China has proven that it has an appetite for renewable energy with US$102.9 billion worth of investments into renewable energy in 2015* (however, falling to US$78.3 billion in 2016*) and with its Longyangxia Dam Solar Park becoming the world’s largest solar farm earlier this year. Here’s hoping therefore, that a formal cooperation statement between the EU and China will be forthcoming in the not too distant future…let’s watch this space.

In conclusion: President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement does inevitably deal a blow to its ambitions. However, signatories and stakeholders around the world do not seem phased by his actions and indeed seem to have used his stance as a uniting counter-point. So yes at this stage, I think it is fair to conclude that we will always have Paris and in the words of Emmanuel Macron, there is substantial international commitment to “make the planet great again“.

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