Climate Change Efforts Get Severely Hit By Trump’s Decision
The US President Trump’s decision to quit the Paris Agreement will certainly deal a death blow to the climate change efforts envisaged by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Considering his stance on climate change, his decision did not spring any surprise. He raised doubts about climate change on several occasions and even termed it a hoax aimed at weakening the American industry.
The argument of hoax, if placed by a developing or an underdeveloped country, would have garnered some support by its counterparts even today since none of them are on a level playing field with the wealthy nations in terms of industrialization and development. These countries, having felt that the industrialization could alleviate poverty by way of providing employment and take their country to a next level on economic front, began setting up industries without showing much concern for the environment. Perhaps, there was not much awareness about the repercussions of the reckless industrialization. However, the awareness emerged among the people of developed nations about the environmental consequences early in the sixties, grown into movements for protection of environment on a global scale. Against this backdrop, whenever the environmental issues called for the attention of the developing and underdeveloped nations on international platforms, they would perceive a conspiracy in the arguments of the richer nations on the grounds that the latter were trying to contain industrial development and thereby eradication of poverty in their countries.
Indira seeks equitable share of environmental costs
Speaking at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held way back in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972, the then Prime Minister of India and the leader of Non-aligned movement Indira Gandhi observed that “The rich countries may look upon development as the cause of environmental destruction, but to us it is one of the primary means of improving the environment for living, or providing food, water, sanitation and shelter, of making the deserts green and the mountains habitable.” She maintained that the countries with but a small fraction of the world population consume the bulk of the world’s production of minerals, fossil fuels and so on. She further asked the conference whether there would be a more equitable sharing of environmental costs and greater international interest in the accelerated progress of the less developed world. Her speech reflected the opinions of several participant nations. Despite reservations, many countries including India agreed to follow Stockholm convention’s 26 principles concerning environment and development.
Coming a long way since then, the environmental protection movement both by the international bodies and the activists brought about a remarkable change in the mindset of almost all the countries that climate change has a bearing on the entire globe, not limiting to a particular region of the sphere. Having realized this fact, the developing and the developed nations toned down their arguments based on conspiracy theories. It is unfortunate that the US, being the biggest carbon emitter in the world, is now talking of conspiracies against it and calling the whole effort a hoax intended to impede its industrial growth and employment. His allegation against India and China as taking advantage from the pact is ridiculous, given the highest share of its consumption of resources and carbon emissions. That said one has to admit that these countries have their share in the carbon emissions howsoever low or high they are. Indeed, China is regarded one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases. India is going ahead with the proposals of industrialization that use fossil fuels. Of the proposed projects thermal power constitutes a major portion. The careless setting up of such plants in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana best illustrates the point.
Paris Pact objectives: The US cannot shirk from obligation
The agreement is aimed at holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 20 Celsius above pre-industrial revolution levels (temperature @ 1850-1900) by 2100 with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5° Celsius. Industrialization, mining and such anthropogenic interference with nature post industrial revolution have led to the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing the phenomenal rise in the global temperatures. The higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are attributed to the excessive use of fossil fuels.
According to an estimate, about 6,600 crore tonnes of carbon dioxide is being added to the carbon debt, of which the US alone accounts for 1320 crore tonnes. Interestingly, its population constitutes just 4.4 percent of the world population. The United States Environmental Protection Agency listed on its website the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Electricity production contributed 29 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, transportation by 27 per cent, industry by 21 percent and residences by 12 per cent. It goes without saying that these sectors employ or depend on fossil fuels for their energy needs.
Let us go into the important feature of the Paris Agreement. Article 9 of the Paris Agreement provides for financial assistance from the developed countries in order for the poor or developing nations to mitigate and adapt to the climate change adversaries. As the highest carbon emitting nation in the world, the US cannot abdicate its responsibility from aiding the underdeveloped. Trump may think that the Paris agreement is a non-binding, but it is certainly incumbent upon the US and upon him by virtue of his position as the President of the US for it owe a lot to humankind on account of the devastation it caused by way of wars, besides its being a contributor to the carbon emissions.