Sadly, yesterday, 4th November 2019, the United States began the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, notifying the UN of its intention to leave.
The notification starts a one-year process of exiting the global climate change accord, culminating the day after the 2020 US election.
The Paris agreement brought together 188 nations to combat climate change. The Paris accord agreed in 2015, committed the US and 187 other countries to keep rising global temperatures below 2C above pre-industrial levels and attempting to limit them even more, to a 1.5C rise. Climate change, or global warming, refers to the damaging effect on the atmosphere of gases, or emissions, released from industry and agriculture.
In a publication “The Paris Climate Agreement versus the Trump Effect: Countervailing Forces for Decarbonisation,” IIEA Senior Fellow Joseph Curtin argues that the “Trump Effect” has created a powerful countervailing force acting against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate. The real concern is that this decision will give instability and uncertainty until broader and deeper structural factors within the US political economy can be addressed as their (the USA) issues around energy resourcing, infrastructure, and urbanization are as much in crisis as anyone else. Can this national determination by the present administration go against the tide of so many?
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he hoped the US could take more responsibility in what was a multilateral process instead of adding “negative energy.”
Today, the US is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, with the US contributes about 15% of global emissions of carbon dioxide. Mr. Trump early in his term promised to turn the US into an energy superpower and has attempted to sweep away a raft of pollution legislation to reduce the cost of producing gas, oil, and coal, the three primary fossil fuels, the significant sources of carbon.
What a lost opportunity? Or can we possibly believe in a new optimism?
I am not holding my breath here, I have to do that enough as I walk around our polluted cities, but I want to believe the US is one of the best at innovating.
The US has been one of the outstanding contributors to advancing innovation. Instead of trying to “roll the clock” back on reducing the cost of coal, gas, and oil, would it not be a more significant contribution to themselves and to the world by finding commercial, scalable solutions to carbon capture or hydrogen? Then these carbon generating fuels can play a role by solving this carbon capture problem specifically.
Cracking that difficult nut of carbon capture is like “flying to the moon,” something I alluded too in a recent post, “the Energy Transition we are undertaking.” Let me repeat it here:
“We lack leadership here in the Energy Transition battle. We need inspirational leadership. John F. Kennedy made one of the most famous “call to actions:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
We do need a call to “collective” action on solving our rapidly warming climate. Still, it is through our “connection” to energy, and especially electricity, we need this moment of inspiration to contribute to making a change. What would be your inspirational statement of “We choose to make our energy clean and sustainable”?
Perhaps it is not too late? Can a new energy model emerge from the creative forces of innovation?
What a pity the US has not taken up the energy transition challenge in imaginative, innovate ways. One where carbon capture, the creative blending of all the fuels, known today and in the future from synthetic substitute fuels, coupled with reductions of emissions, accelerating e-mobility and transforming cities into connected ones, has not become the centerpiece of their energy commitments. They need this alternative plan, otherwise, they will quickly become non-competitive as the world adopts green, fossil-free energy as policy and regulation.
The final decision to the US completing withdrawal is after the next presidential election, and the official release on the withdrawal of the US from the Paris agreement stated this:
“The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossils fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy. In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model – backed by a record of real-world results – showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy.
We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Just as we have in the past, the United States will continue to research, innovate, and grow our economy while reducing emissions and extending a helping hand to our friends and partners around the globe.”
It also in the statement pointed out, “The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy. Our results speak for themselves: U.S. emissions of criteria air pollutants that impact human health and the environment declined by 74% between 1970 and 2018. U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions dropped 13% from 2005-2017, even as our economy grew over 19 percent.
Are we doing enough or has it just got a whole lot harder?
Can we believe these statements released to justify this decision? Or are there other transformation ways to make sure we are doing enough in reducing worrying climate concerns? The US needs a viable alternative plan for managing climate issues. How can we reduce greenhouse gases and re-vitalizing the energy industry to provide environmentally-friendly electricity, a robust infrastructure and a sustainable source of power to “fuel” our cities, cars, and economic and societal aspirations?
Can we believe the US, by walking away from an agreement made by all other countries on the planet? Will the US live up to be a leading responsible global citizen or progressively lagging one. Do we fear the US is going more inward and is selfishly promoting its best interests of big oil, gas, and coal?
Let us hope not, and the movements occurring across the US of hundreds of local governments, businesses, and organizations in the US that have joined the “We Are Still In” become even more of a powerful movement. We need a doubling down on pledging to cut emissions, and continued move to renewable energy as the source of clean energy has the innovative access, political and social will. The ability to solving fossil fuel problems, the ability to blend or phase in new technology at scale, such as hydrogen, and can find ways and means that accelerate the carbon capture solutions that we still need to resolve.
I want to believe there are many ways for other transformation solutions to energy solutions that will emerge in the years ahead. These new solutions will be needed to make sure “we are doing enough.” This is in reducing worrying climate concerns, eradicating as much greenhouse gases as possible, alongside re-vitalizing the energy industry to provide electricity that is as clean as it can be from sources that reduce carbon. In making our infrastructure robust and resilient, and a sustainable source of power to “fuel” our cities, cars, and economic and societal aspirations.
Mr. President, you can tear down walls in past policies, protocols, precedences; we have seen this constantly but can you replace them with solutions that will make America great again? Ideas flow across boundaries, please don’t bury those in one-sided policies, you need to tear down but also build up and find the ways and means to ignite the imagination we all need to resolve global warming. The US has some of the best innovative capabilities, we need leadership to “enable” them, to solve complex problems and lead the world in new concepts, solutions, and approaches. The US is very capable of finding breakthrough solutions for our energy and climate needs.
Are we doing enough? No, as we do need to reverse this negative energy and make it positive.