We are in danger of missing legally-binding emissions targets set out in the Climate Change Act. If we’re to fulfil our international obligations under the Paris agreement, we need to up our game—and fastby Jim Skea / June 28, 2017 / Leave a comment
For those of us wrestling with how the world should respond to something so scientifically beyond doubt as man-made climate change, the rollercoaster of short-term politics is dizzying. The ups and downs make it hard to discern whether one’s glass, at any given time, is half empty or half full.
Despite recent events, my glass is, surprisingly, half full in relation to the impact of US climate policy. When it comes to the situation on this side of the pond, in contrast, my glass is half empty. This might sound counter-intuitive—but let me explain.
The immediate reaction to President Donald Trump pulling the US out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement—which brought all countries for the first time into a common cause to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2C above pre-industrial levels—was loud and despairing. Newly-elected President of France Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address that Trump had “committed an error for the interests of his country, his people and a mistake for the future of our planet.” And it was hard not to see it as such.
But to Christiana Figueres, seen by many as the architect of Paris, it was “a vacuous political melodrama.” This assessment was an early, eloquent hint at a more sanguine view that has come to bear.
President Trump’s decision had the effect of galvanising the remaining big blocs—the EU, India, China and others—into reaffirming their commitment to global action. Likewise many individual US states—who between them control around 70 per cent of US carbon emissions—have also committed to delivering on Paris. And the combination of market forces and technological change is also forcing down US emissions.
According to UK energy professionals surveyed for the Energy Institute’s 2017 Energy Barometer, published yesterday, 66 per cent believe President Trump’s decision will have no effect or is surmountable if US action continues at state level and federal support is reinstated under a future administration.
Turning to the situation in the UK, I am currently less optimistic.
As one of the pioneers of climate action, the UK has traditionally been in the driving seat of the EU’s climate leadership. Founded on cross party consensus—in 2008 only three MPs voted against the UK’s ambitious domestic legislation, the Climate Change Act—it was reassuring to hear the Queen reaffirm in last week’s state opening of parliament that the government intends to “continue to support international action against climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
But Paris cannot simply be pigeonholed as foreign policy. It is a global agreement, but it requires clear and determined action domestically on the part of all signatories.