Climate Policy Environment 5 June, 2017 9:00 am   
Editorial staff

Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement, now what?

“In accordance with his earlier statements, the American President pulled the USA out of the Paris climate agreement (COP21). The decision will have a number of long- and short- term repercussions for the global climate and energy policy,” writes Konrad Świrski, professor at the Warsaw University of Technology and CEO of Transition Technologies.

In the short term, Trump’s decision will face an emotional and fierce reaction from the European Union, where it will be perceived as completely against the binding interpretation of the EU climate policy. The United States (or rather Trump personally), will be presented as an uneducated and backward opponent of new technologies and attempts at saving the world under threat of climate change.

Europe will respond with a clear message on the necessity of continuation of the Paris agreement in a “Brussels” understanding, which proposes a rapid cut to CO2 emissions in accordance with EU directives (which are Europe’s own interpretation of the Paris treaty, which, just to remind, says about the necessity to sustain the world’s temperature increase and individual contributions of given countries). Quicker implementation of new EU climate regulations is becoming apparent, and maybe stricter CO2 reduction limits in Europe will be also proposed.

At the same time China is assuming a wait-and-see attitude, and has announced its continued support for the Paris deal, and continuation of the latest Chinese investment trend in renewable energy sources, which is a necessity in China, considering the catastrophic environmental pollution. Chinese declarations will be more balanced and less clear. For a large number of developing countries (India, South-East Asia, Africa and South America), the US decision will be a signal to adopt an even more ‘liberal’ approach to the COP21 agreement; and declare even less clear and purposefully ineffectual local climate goals, that will not confine their economies. Therefore, the Paris agreement will become an even bigger formal fiction because real actions of all states (apart from Europe) will be more feigned than real.

Poland will welcome Trump’s decision with enthusiasm because it is in line with the country’s strategy to protect local coal. It also gives (unfortunately false) hope to ease the painful consequences of the European climate package. If Poland decides to use the US as an example defending its position, it may actually intensify the energy and climate conflict between Brussels and Warsaw, because the general EU policy will not be changed, it will be made even more strict. Thus, Poland, as the only supported of Trump on this side of the Atlantic, will be under fire, fire aimed at a country which is closer and easier to pressure (with e.g. EU regulations) than the USA.

In the long term, the climate issue (and US decision) may leave the center of attention, and cease to be so significant when new threats or conflicts emerge. Cooperation between Europe and the US will be decisive when it comes to security, and if new risks come up (terror, local conflicts, higher international tensions), the climate deal will be put aside immediately.