Ah Paris! The world, barring one notable American, loves the city of l'amour. But it was not rising passions, but rising temperatures that drew the attention of leaders of the world who met in the French capital in 2015 and signed the Paris Accord. It is not a treaty or law, it is an agreement in good faith. 194 countries and the European Union had signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified to it, including USA, China and India who account for almost half the greenhouse gas emissions globally. They agreed to keep global warming below 2°C.
What happens if we go beyond 2°C? Seas rise, weather changes, crops die – in short, earth becomes more hostile to life.
The accord asks countries to reduce emission levels but doesn't say how. There is no strict plan to be followed – the idea is that each nation can adapt its own policies keeping in mind the common goal. To bring all nations to an even footing, richer countries (USA, for example) are supposed to send $100 billion a year as aid to the poorer countries. A major drawback is that because the Accord is a voluntary agreement, there is no penalty for not meeting the goals.
On June 1, 2017, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement saying that the "draconian" pact imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses. With the US backing out, the Paris Accord is down, but not out. The exit of one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases will make it significantly harder to check rising temperatures, but the remaining countries have pledged to keep up their end of the deal. The survival of the Paris Accord without the US is a huge snub to the most powerful country in the world, and will have significant diplomatic repercussions.
China, India and the EU are stepping in to replace USA as global leaders in climate change. China is expected to reach its Paris target early and India, the fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide,has pledged to harness 40 percent of its energy needs from renewable resources.
While Trump may have rebuffed the Paris Accord, not all Americans have followed suit. In a blatant rebuff to Trump, nine governors, 143 mayors, hundreds of universities and businesses, including Apple and Google, have signed the We Are Still In pact, announcing that they are still a part of the Accord, "no matter what policies Washington may adopt."
This decision has more chances of backfiring upon Trump than on anyone else. Meanwhile, here's how we could do our bit to stay away from the 2°C.
That's why the world needs to say d'accord to Paris!