The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has informed the United Nations that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
The Paris Agreement, as the accord is officially known, aims to have developed, developing and emerging countries go beyond their national interests to tackle climate change. It was initially backed by both the United States and China — the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 emitters of greenhouse gases.
Signatories to the agreement will launch their plans to reduce such gases next year. The withdrawal of the United States at such a time shakes the system of international coordination that is central to the agreement, and throws cold water on momentum to initiate climate change countermeasures.
President Trump’s announcement of his country’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement came seven months after the pact went into effect, and five months after Trump assumed office. His stance, as if to speak for the coal industry that forms part of his support base, sparked international criticism.
In the 2 1/2 years since Trump stated that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the global climate situation has become more serious. Global warming is threatening people’s food, clothing and shelter. “Abnormal” weather has become routine, and food shortages and deterioration of people’s living environments have forced people to migrate, producing so-called “climate refugees.”
Investors focusing on the risks of climate change have started to withdraw funding from firms that are reluctant to implement global warming countermeasures. Even within the United States, efforts to battle climate change are in full swing, centering on global firms, and some states, like California, have hammered out their own policies.
Departure from a carbon society is becoming a global trend. At the U.N. Climate Change Summit in New York this autumn, 77 countries announced that they would effectively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that it was the world’s responsibility to stop the crisis accompanying climate change, and said that the summit represented a time for action.
This situation is urgent. The Paris Agreement aims to keep the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above levels seen before the industrial revolution; and to limit the rise to 1.5 C if possible. But the average global temperature has already increased by over 1 C, and it is predicted by some experts that even if the targets of the Paris Agreement are achieved, the world will not be able to avoid the consequences of rising sea levels and extreme weather.
At this time when the world is gripped by a shared sense of urgency, Trump’s act of turning his back on a crisis of a global scale can only be described as foolish behavior. The pros and cons of his decision will no doubt be weighed in the U.S. presidential election next year, but Trump should be aware of the danger of his self-centered attitude resulting in serious consequences for humanity.