The Paris Treaty agreement of 2015 was an initiative of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). It has evolved from the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 which established legal obligations to reach mandatory targets on cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To date, 141 parties out of 197 have ratified the convention which was enforced on November 4th, 2016 at the Conference of the Parties 22 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco. Amidst fears of President Donald Trump’s policy stances on the issue, many are distressed that America’s withdrawal from the treaty will reverse progress in fighting climate change and jeopardize the UNFCCC. These fears are understandable. However, Trump’s climate change denial has prompted COP22 members, American states, and international organizations to unite and hasten progress.
The important thing to note is that Trump hasn’t discumbered the Paris Treaty agreements. All other member countries are still a party to it. Whilst Enerdata shows that America is the second highest energy consumer, other members of the top ten energy consumers – Canada, France, and Germany have already submitted their long-term plans to the UN detailing how they will meet their targets for the next few decades. China, the largest energy consumer has relayed serious environmental plans in the form of their National Climate Change Program. They have already increased their electricity production via renewable sources up to 24.7% in 2015 and are looking to decrease their use of coal. The EU Commission are now looking to China to help lead the battle against climate change, a partnership that has been fostered for many years. China has important reasons to help command the charge, as their agriculture and water resources are suffering and air pollution is still prominent. Their commitment has been further cemented in their recent meeting with the EU Commission from March 29th to the 2nd of April 2017. Hence the lack of American participation in the Paris Treaty agreement is not as fatal as it seems.
Furthermore, there is internal American resistance against Trump’s unraveling of the USA’S climate policy. California Governor Jerry Brown intends to forge ahead with California’s innovative climate change programs and fight Trump in the courts if he has to. California has also helped kick-start Under2 MOU (Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding) which is a voluntary pact equivalent to the Paris Treaty agreements. At present they have 167 jurisdictions representing more than 1.09 billion people. This includes the American states of Washington, New York, Massachusetts, and Oregon, New Hampshire alongside other states and cities worldwide. Meanwhile, DataRefuge and the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) are archiving US government data on climate change (which the government is deleting) and monitoring changes on the governmental website to track their deletions and policy changes. Thus Americans are uniting with the world to fight Trump’s administration at every turn.
Hence, the UNFCCC is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to climate change activism. There are numerous other organizations like the above-mentioned, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and Ice2Sea. Whilst the UN unifies the climate change battle at the state level, it focuses primarily on decreasing GHG. Other organizations have a myriad of projects tackling different effects of climate change, by creating local projects, new technologies and conducting scientific research. Trump has inadvertently highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts of state, interstate and local organizations in tackling climate change on all fronts. Thus the battle is not lost. It is an uphill struggle, but success is achieved daily. No matter how small the gains, progress is accumulative. Ironically, Trump has collectivized the climate change combatants and provided them the impetus to work faster and more efficiently.