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US now a rogue state and climate villain, world tells Trump

Jun 02 2017 16:56
Yolandi Groenewald, Fin24
Environmental activists and supporters take part i

Environmental activists and supporters take part in a demonstration in New York to protest US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 195-nation Paris climate accord deal. (Pic: Jewel Samad, AFP)

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Johannesburg - While US president Donald Trump's decision to withdraw his nation from the historic Paris Agreement is a definite setback in dealing with climate change, analysts say that the Paris Agreement will continue.

South Africa was one of the main architects of the 2015 accord, signed by 195 countries, which seeks to decrease carbon emissions and combat climate change.

South Africa’s International Relations department spokesperson Nelson Kgwete says Trump's decision was disappointing and that the country was investigating how it would affect its own efforts. But South Africa remained committed to the agreement, which has its roots in Durban at COP17 back in 2011.

Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF SA, said the onus was now stronger than ever for South Africa to implement a just transition to a low carbon economy. "Even in a developing country like South Africa it is becoming clear that the transition to a low carbon society is inevitable," he said. "Shifts in international geopolitics will only determine the pace of that transition and at what level temperatures will peak."

China, the world’s big emitter, has also thrown its weight behind the deal after the US exit announcement. In a joint statement German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the Paris Agreement could not be renegotiated and that they were committed to making it work.

The US administration, under Obama, played a leading role in shaping the agreement. But now the US, the world’s second biggest emitters, finds itself part of a group of three countries that include Nicaragua that sits outside the Paris Agreement.

Mary Robinson, former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, said the US reneging on its commitment renders it a rogue state on the international stage.

Civil organisations also damned the US’s exit. Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General and now chair of The Elders, said while the US withdrawal weakened the agreement, it would not trigger its demise. “No one country can dismantle the agreement.” 

The international pool of climate activists, Climate Action Network (CAN), said Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement is an act of global environmental vandalism. The network said Americans would ultimately be the biggest losers with rising costs and risks from pollution, environmental degradation and lost opportunities in a low-carbon economy and renewable energy jobs.

Erich Pica of  Friends of the Earth said Trump has turned the United States into the world’s foremost climate villain, while Wendel Trio, CAN’s director in Europe said the world is wasting no time on laggards when it comes to climate action. 

The agreement will succeed with or without the US, as the rest of the world remain committed to the low-carbon transition, said Mohamed Adow, head of Christian Aid. He added that the 21st Century would be powered by clean energy.

The commitment of other leading nations is more important than ever, Jonathan Church, a lawyer at ClientEarth believed. “Unlike the view of the current US administration, countries all over the world see the Paris Agreement as an engine for growth and jobs.”

Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International Executive Director said the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will turn America from a global climate leader into a flat earth society of one. “Trump is surrendering US global leadership to real world leaders who are seizing the momentum to protect their country and the climate by transforming their economies to clean energy.”

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