Wed, May 10, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Officials warn about reversing climate efforts

Pacific island nations are aghast that the US might walk away from the Paris climate accord, with Fiji saying that the situation is ‘frighteningly real,’ while the Marshall Islands said its very survival ‘depends on every country delivering on the promises they made’

By Oliver Milman, Jonathan Watts and Tom Phillips  /  The Guardian, NEW YORK, RIO DE JANIERO and BEIJING

Illustration: Mountain People

US President Donald Trump’s scorched-earth approach to environmental protections has shocked current and former government officials overseas, who are waiting nervously to see whether the US will destabilize the Paris climate agreement by pulling out of the deal.

The Guardian has spoken to a number of officials from key countries before Trump makes a decision on the Paris agreement this month.

Trump’s announcement might come as early as this week.

“Trump’s actions on the climate are worrying,” former Brazilian minister of the environment Izabella Teixeira said.

“Although it is still too early to be sure what his strategy is for the US, the signs so far of backsliding are a concern to anyone who was involved in the long process that lead up to the Paris agreement,” said the veteran negotiator, who was credited with a key role in securing the international deal in 2015. “We certainly could not have imagined this political picture when we signed the agreement in Paris.”

“It is a concern, because we saw a similar situation when [former US president] George W. Bush came to power and backed away from the Kyoto Protocol,” Teixeira said.

Trump has started peeling away many of the pollution rules imposed by former US president Barack Obama’s administration, such as the signature Clean Power Plan, new vehicle emissions standards, clean water regulations and curbs on toxic discharge from power plants.

Keystone XL and Dakota Access, two major and controversial oil pipelines, have been approved. Last week, the president ordered reviews of protected areas on land and water with the goal of opening them up to further oil and gas drilling.

Trump said he was “unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.”

The administration is now mulling whether the US should stay in the Paris climate agreement, a landmark deal struck by nearly 200 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions that was ratified last year.

Trump has previously promised to “cancel” the deal, but his advisers are reportedly split over whether quitting the compact would be worth the resulting diplomatic fallout.

Last week a senior UN official warned the US would suffer economically if it chooses to pull out of Paris, citing the clean energy jobs that will be created as countries decarbonize their electricity sources.

“There is no doubt where the future is and that is what all the private-sector companies have understood,” UN Environment Program Executive Director Erik Solheim told Reuters. “The future is green. Obviously if you are not a party to the Paris agreement, you will lose out. And the main losers of course will be the people of the United States itself, because all the interesting, fascinating new green jobs would go to China and to the other parts of the world that are investing heavily in this.”

Pacific island nations particularly vulnerable to the rising seas, heatwaves and droughts wrought by increasing global temperatures are particularly alarmed at the sharp reversal in climate policy by the US, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has written to Trump to urge him to stay within the Paris agreement.

Bainimarama will officially head the UN climate change talks taking place in Bonn, Germany, in November.

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