x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

US state governments 'still committed' to Paris Agreement despite Trump

According to former and current US governors, America is 'still in' the fight to combat global warming

Former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger talks during the World Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany, on November 12, 2017. He says more can be done to counter US president Donald Trump’s 'stone age' actions. Henning Kaiser / dpa via AP
Former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger talks during the World Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany, on November 12, 2017. He says more can be done to counter US president Donald Trump’s 'stone age' actions. Henning Kaiser / dpa via AP

When president Donald Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Paris climate deal, it was seen as either a sign of defeat or a chance to fill the vacuum that would be left by the world’s second largest carbon dioxide emitter.

China, the biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, remains committed to its goal to reduce global temperature to two degrees Celsius or less by the end of this century.

The move of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s government to authorise a new environmental tax that will start in 2018 was heralded as one of the biggest top-down environmental policy decisions leading up to the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties – to address climate change – in the German city of Bonn.

India has also stepped up efforts to fight climate change by launching a large-scale solar energy project that aims to provide 40 per cent of the country’s energy by 2030.

Meanwhile, Germany said it will provide an additional 100 million euros (Dh430.3m) to assist developing countries in meeting their national climate goals.

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However, despite efforts by the 195 nations still committed to the Paris Agreement – which was adopted in 2015 and calls for capping global warming at two degrees below pre-industrial levels – the US pulling out of the climate deal is discouraging, according to Christiana Figueres, former president if the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

“Unless the US has a positive signal for the governments to do their job, even if China and India are doing a great job – even if they are doing that domestically – the push on the international political platform to curb climate change will be very difficult,” she told The National on the sidelines of the climate talks.

However, according to former and current US governors, the United States is “still in” to fight global warming despite the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the international climate deal.

A campaign launched by more than 2,500 American entities, including state governments and universities, have signed the We Are Still In declaration to show that their organisations still represent US commitment to the Paris Agreement.

“The reason we came here is to let you know that Trump cannot stop us. You do not have an international treaty and pull out, so we have an action plan that is cleaning the environment,” said Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, in Bonn.

He, along with governor of Oregon Kate Brown and governor of California Jerry Brown, said their states are committed to fighting global warming.

The three states and 12 others formed the US Climate Alliance, whose members make up 40 per cent of the US economy and are committed to the Paris Agreement.

If these non-federal actors were a country, their economy would be the third largest in the world, bigger than all but two national parties to the Paris Agreement.

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“I do not accept the fact that just because we have Trump, the rest of the world goes to hell,” said Mr Brown of California. “It’s not just America slacking off, we can criticise all the countries for not doing enough, if Trump does less you have to do more, we’re all in this.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California, said more can be done to counter Mr Trump’s “stone age” actions.

“We fought, and I think this is why we can achieve our goals, I said at the UN that [American] states have tremendous power, the reality of it is that local governments do 70 per cent of the action,” he said.

“This is why I was not concerned when Trump dropped out, China doesn’t need to pick up the vacuum and not India, we pick up the vacuum.”