The terms of the Paris Agreement will deliver results, Canada, the EU and China agreed at a summit in Montreal this weekend. Ahead of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York this week and the COP23 climate summit in Bonn in November, Canadian, EU and Chinese officials met in Montreal on Friday and Saturday (15-16 September) to present a united front against the United States on climate action. Washington has come to deny that the US is planning to stay in the accord.
More than half of G20 members, representing most of the world’s largest economies, attended the Montreal summit, “this first gathering of its kind aims to further galvanize global momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement,” said Jean-Claude Juncker. The President of the European Commission has reaffirmed the EU aim of being “at the forefront of the fight against climate change”.
Effect of current pledges and policies on global temperature
In the absence of policies, global warming is expected to reach 4.1 °C – 4.8 °C above pre-industrial by the end of the century. The emissions that drive this warming are often called Baseline scenarios (‘Baselines’ in the above figure) and are taken from the IPCC AR5 Working Group III. Current policies presently in place around the world are projected to reduce baseline emissions and result in about 3.6°C  warming above pre-industrial levels.
The resilient architecture of the Paris Agreement
The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has made its implementation more challenging. Far from bringing international climate action to a standstill, the US government’s position has, on the contrary, prompted decision-makers in Montreal to reaffirm their commitment to the implementation of the Paris agreement.
“The United Nations General Assembly brings together international leaders from business, government & civil society to showcase the unstoppable momentum of Climate Action”, has twitted today Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna. “Climate change is real and affects the most vulnerable people on earth. We all need to curb carbon emissions”, she adds.
China, the world’s largest emitter (responsible for 26.83% of global greenhouse emissions), committed to reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60 to 65% below 2005 levels by 2030. The country is also set to launch its own carbon emissions trading system, the biggest in the world, this year. By joining forces with China, the EU has the opportunity to be at the helm of the global transition towards a low-carbon economy.
All over the world efforts by cities, states and corporations to fight global warming have put the U.S. halfway toward its Paris climate accord goal. In the private sector, commitments by companies to wean themselves off fossil fuels and source power from wind and solar farms have also been a key driver so far.
These conditions provide fertile ground for Canada to play a leading role in the long process to turn the commitments made in Paris into concrete actions.
The Montreal meeting precedes the international summit set to be held in France on the 12th of December to review progress on the climate accord.
Would it be better for international climate governance if Trump stays out of the Paris Agreement?
The answer is definitely “NO”. The US government’s current unwillingness to participate in the collective effort to limit the rise of global temperatures constitutes an obstacle to the implementation of the Paris agreement. Hundreds of corporations and world leaders are lobbying the United States to stay in the pact. The transition towards a low-carbon economy has already begun with the recognition that climate change mitigation can lead to economic growth and job creation. The current dynamic for strategic partnerships seems positive.
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New York Times, September 18, 2017, “Trump Adviser Tells Ministers U.S. Will Leave Paris Climate Accord”
Joe Ryan, September 18, 2017, “Cities, States and Businesses Put U.S. Halfway to Paris Goal”, Bloomberg Politics
Simone Tagliapetra, September 18, 2017 , “Trump and the Paris Agreement: better out than in”, Bruegel Blog post.
Euractiv, September 18, 2017, “Trump told that Paris Agreement is ‘irreversible and non-negotiable”