The Paris Agreement

How a Trump Administration affects the Treaty and Canada

By Matthew Goble

On Friday, November 4th 2016, the Paris Agreement officially became international law for 96 countries around the world.  The treaty’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2°C, and the 96 governing bodies have agreed to meet every 5 years (starting in 2023) to set more ambitious targets, to report to each other and the public on how well they are doing, and track their progress through a robust transparency and accountability system. Every country submitted comprehensive national climate action plans (INDCs) to show the UN and their governments how the targets will be achieved.

These nations are not legally bound at the international level to accomplish their targets; however, each party is legally bound to “pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of their contributions.” The Green Climate Fund, which is not a part of the Paris Agreement, plans to provide US$100 billion per year in aid to developing countries for applying new procedures to minimize climate change starting in 2020. This is not legally binding either, and it is up to the country to provide this money in the future. In March of this year, the Obama administration gave a US$500 million grant to the Green Climate Fund; this is the first part in the United States’ commitment to US$3 billion. The chances of the Green Climate Fund receiving the remaining $2.5 billion is now more than unlikely under the new administration of Donald Trump.

President-Elect Trump does not believe that climate change is being accelerated by human activity. He claims, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Having the leader of the free world ignoring an issue to this magnitude is alarming the architects of the Paris Agreement. Donald Trump repeatedly said in speeches that he would “pull out” of the Agreement and try to bypass the four-year period that is required for nations to go through to leave the agreement. Four days after becoming international law, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases is already questioning the Agreement. Not a great start. The Trump administration is also looking at making changes nationally by getting rid of Obama’s Clean Power Plan that helped the nation switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Climate denier Myron Ebell is now leading the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and will assist in the agency’s overhaul and dismantle.

Canadians have always been affected by the decisions of the United States, and the decisions of the Trump administration on climate change will directly affect Canadians and our future. In the next four years, air pollution, smog, and acid rain is expected to increase and the pollution will not stop at the border. We will directly feel the results of increased emissions from the United States, seeing an increase in acid rain, smog in large cities, and increased health risks like asthma and lung diseases.

Canadians must elect government officials from local to federal levels that see climate change as a threat to national security and will treat it as one. As a country, we need to remain optimistic and hopeful about the future and how far we have come. We cannot let one man decide our fate; instead, we should let him motivate us to work harder to achieve a sustainable society so our grandchildren can have the same opportunities that we’ve had. Having a leader who is committed to combating climate change and adapting to a changing climate is key to the success of any country’s future.

The Paris Agreement is a great step in the right direction towards sustainability on a global scale; it may not be perfect, but when 96 countries can come together and agree on something then we have truly made progress. Do not let a single country jeopardize the progress we have all made to make this world great again.

 

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