Paris deal remains world’s best chance to tackle climate change

by David Fogarty, The Straits Times/ ANN

Singapore — A year ago today, nearly 200 nations came to agreement on one of the world’s most sweeping and important environmental and economic pacts. The Paris Climate Agreement commits, for the first time, all nations to a collective fight against climate change. For the thousands of delegates who had gathered for two weeks at an airfield on the edge of Paris, the deal was the culmination of nearly 20 years of often bitter diplomacy. Though not perfect and with doubts about whether it is strong enough to avoid humanity cooking the planet, the agreement has set the world on a better path for retooling industries, power plants and transport to make them cleaner and more efficient. It remains unclear whether a Donald Trump administration will honor the pact. The United States President-elect famously tweeted in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Fierce Domestic and International Resistance Before the U.S. election, he vowed to cancel the Paris Agreement, but last month told The New York Times he had an open mind on U.S. involvement in the pact. Last week, he met climate change activist Al Gore and then picked a climate skeptic and fossil fuel industry ally to head the Environmental Protection Agency. No one really knows what Mr. Trump will do on climate change next. If he does try to pull America out of the Paris pact, he will face fierce resistance internationally and domestically. A number of U.S. states are forging ahead with their own low-carbon energy plans and will fight Mr. Trump in the courts if he interferes. This is a pact that nations want to be a part of and implement because each nation is allowed to fight climate change in its own way, just as long as it is transparent and can be measured and monitored – and strengthened over time. At the annual U.N. climate talks last month in Morocco, Mr. Trump got a taste of the international solidarity behind the Paris Agreement. Nations appealed to him to take climate change seriously. China issued a call for the U.S. to stay inside the Paris Agreement. Some diplomats in Morocco also talked of financial penalties for the U.S. It’s a sign that impatience, particularly from poorer, more vulnerable nations, is growing. That is because climate change and its impacts, from extreme heat, storms, floods and melting ice caps, are accelerating. In the race to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, nations need to lift their game in cutting emissions from industry, agriculture and transport and do so in a way that ensures no back-sliding. For the moment, there’s no sign of rowing back. The years 2014 and 2015 were the hottest on record and 2016 looks set to maintain this trend.