The “Trump Effect” is slowing down global climate action, and working against the ambition of the Paris Agreement, according to a new report.
The US president’s policies are “acting against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate,” argues a report from the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) – an Irish think tank.
It was released Monday as talks were beginning at the COP24 UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, where nations are tasked with finalizing the guidelines around the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement committed almost 200 countries to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees.
The United States ratified the Agreement, but Trump announced in June 2017 that the US would withdraw from it – although it cannot formally leave until November 2020.
’Creating cover for others to follow suit’
The IIEA report argues that Trump policies – the “Trump Effect” – are creating roadblocks in three ways.
It says that the decision to withdraw from the Agreement has created “moral and political cover for others to follow suit.” It gives the examples of Russia and Turkey, which have signed the Agreement but have yet to ratify it, and Australia, which abandoned legislation to comply with its Paris pledge.
“Australia was set to bring forth legislation to implement its extremely weak Paris pledge,” says Joseph Curtin, the report’s author. “But in the debate that surrounded it, various leaders referred to the precedent established by President Trump, saying if Trump wasn’t committed to the Paris Agreement, why should they bring forth legislation they alleged would be damaging to the Australian economy?
“You could see the oxygen the Trump Effect gave to the Australian political debate and how it energized those who sought to defect from Australia’s Paris pledge.”
The report also says goodwill at international negotiations has been damaged by Trump – partly by his decision to end US contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which was set up to help developing countries reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.
Since announcing its withdrawal, the US has remained involved in Paris Agreement negotiations. Curtin says the US has opposed any strict rules for reporting requirements around climate financing – including the $100 billion per year that developed countries have promised to developing nations.
“Overall the US is taking a very unsympathetic view to the whole financing debate and this has created a wedge between developed and developing countries,” Curtin told CNN. “It has soured the spirit of collaboration you need between developed and developing countries at these sort of international negotiations.”
Fossil fuel investment
Finally, the report argues that “US federal rollbacks have increased the attractiveness of fossil fuel investments around the world.”
Among those climate protection rollbacks, the administration has announced plans to freeze Obama-era greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles, and the Environment Protection Agency wants to reverse the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which had a goal of cutting the country’s carbon emissions by a third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.
The report says that following the Paris Agreement, in 2016 there was a decline in investment in fossil fuels like coal and tar sands, with investors deeming them risky. But it says that changed in 2017 as Trump’s policies created “the impression that the era of fossil fuels may not be drawing to a close, or at least not as rapidly as the Agreement in Paris had suggested.”
It points to a study that surveyed 36 US banks and found that their investment in coal increased by 6% in 2017 after a 38% drop in 2016.
Impact on climate talks
At the weekend, G20 leaders agreed on a statement that includes a section on climate, reaffirming signatories’ commitment to the Paris Agreement.
But a separate clause puts the United States alone, saying it “reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment.”
How the so-called “Trump Effect” plays out at COP24 remains to be seen. Notable among the world leaders at the opening ceremony was the absence of those from the planet’s most powerful nations, which are also the world’s biggest carbon polluters.
But the report also notes that “Paris is not in crisis,” and points out that the EU and China, among others, are on track to meet their 2020 goals. Last week, the EU announced a draft plan to be carbon neutral by 2050.
“The Paris Agreement was designed to be particularly flexible and I think it will continue to trundle forward until at least November 2020,” said Curtin. “Nobody at Paris will say this, but everybody will be hoping for a different outcome in the November 2020 US elections.
“I think the agreement will survive until the end of the first period of the Trump presidency, and hopefully then there will be the energy to pick up the pieces and drive the process forward.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.