The then US Secretary of State John Kerry had signed the Paris climate agreement “holding future of his country” – his three-year-old granddaughter. But that was a fantasy. President Trump has announced America’s exit from that agreement, in deference to “reassertion of America’s sovereignty.” “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburg, not Paris,” he tweeted and earned a pat rebuttal by the mayor of Pittsburg who says his city stands with the world and he will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement “for our people, our economy & future.” That split runs right across the United States. The Democrat governors of some ten states say they would uphold the Paris agreement by forging what they called the “United States Climate Alliance.” A number of major US companies want to stay in the agreement. But if the United States is divided over President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, the outside world is not. What to talk of withdrawal from the Paris deal there is stiff resistance even to the idea of renegotiating its principal clauses.
The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. According to a 2013 survey, it was responsible for 13 percent of the world’s total, after China’s 28 percent. China and almost all other major emitters of greenhouse gases stand by the Paris agreement. However, the question that comes to the fore in the wake of American withdrawal is who will foot the bill. It is the United States whose contribution to UN-managed Green Climate Fund (GCF) to mitigate emissions far exceeds all others’. Of the pledged $3 billion it has already contributed one billion, but will withhold the rest now that it is opposed to the agreement. The one quite disturbed over the Trump’s decision is the UN Secretary General who called it “a major disappointment.” Given that the Paris agreement calls upon member-states to evolve “nationally determined contributions” even then the US denial of funds is quite likely to negatively impact its implementation. But then there are also indications that the international support for the agreement is big enough to, hopefully, bridge the US-created financial gap. The Trump administration may change its mind and instead of complete withdrawal ask for renegotiations. After all nothing is final with President Trump, and in this case a possibility also because there is opposition to the presidential decision right from within the White House.
Being one of the prime victims of global warming consequential to climate change, Pakistan is an anxious watcher of the fate of the Paris agreement. Though it is insignificant emitter of greenhouse gases (less than 1 percent), it is one of the top 10 collateral victims of climate change. Almost all of its glaciers are on retreat, melting faster than in any other part of the world. Its vulnerability to global warming invariably results in massive flooding due to higher glacial melt, extensive desertification and unprecedented rise of sea level that devours huge chunks of coastal areas. It is believed the sea has taken away some two million hectors of land on the seafronts of Sindh and Balochistan. Should sea erosion remain unchecked, according to a report of National Institute of Oceanography, cities of Karachi, Badin and Thatta would be submerged by 2060. Global warming also causes extreme weather events like erratic monsoon rains that trigger massive flooding in the plains of Punjab and Sindh and landslides in northwestern regions. But on its own Pakistan has low capacity to adapt to adverse impacts of global warming. It needs international co-operation within the framework of the Paris agreement. That being backdrop of Pakistan’s deep commitment to UN-led moves to check global warming the people are immensely disturbed over President Trump’s decision to walk out of the Paris agreement.