22nd of April, 2016 was a monumental day for the entire world. 174 parties and the European Union signed the Paris Climate Accord – an agreement to reduce pollution and tackle climate change. While terms of the agreement are different for different countries, the overall agenda is to cut down emissions and keep global warming well below the 2˚C target.
Fast forward to January 2017. The US of A has a new President and a republican no less. Donald Trump’s election promises involved redrafting many policies passed by the Obama government. Among them, the expenditure on clean energy initiatives. Republicans have a long history of climate change skepticism and believe it to be a hoax. Following his Presidential tour of the Middle-east and Europe, on 1 June 2017, Trump announced that the United States of America will be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, putting them in the same basket as Nicaragua and Syria.
But comparing the US to the other two countries would be obtuse and ignorant. While Syria is currently a war zone, Nicaragua hasn’t signed the agreement because they consider the accord to be weak. It is not binding and gives liberties to major emitters which makes reaching the 2˚C a difficult task. Nicaragua is well ahead of its peers in clean energy initiatives.
Even though Trump has decided to look the other way, not every American seems to hold the same opinion. During his withdrawal announcement, Trump declared that he represents Pittsburgh and not Paris. Ironically, the Mayor of Pittsburgh has come out in support of the Paris Accord. He has joined forces with the Mayor of Paris, proclaiming that Pittsburgh’s commitment to clean energy is still intact.
It is not just Pittsburgh though. In light of Donald Trump’s decision, the states of California, New York, Washington, Hawaii, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Virginia and Delaware have created an alliance to fulfil America’s part of the Paris deal. They aim to create a green economy without the aid of the federal government. Other global leaders have also reached out to help. Since Trump’s decision will cut down significant funds for research on climate change, French President, Emmanuel Macron, has urged American Climate Scientists to move to France in order to continue with their work.
Although America’s withdrawal is a setback, it is not completely damning. Major emitters and developing nations like India and China have pledged to uphold their commitments. Analysis by Climate Action Tracker shows that China and India’s clean energy policies outweigh slower emission reductions in the US. China’s renewable energy industry is currently the largest in the world. In February this year, they opened the world’s biggest solar farm which has a capacity of 850MW.
While developing countries are making major strides, many developed nations are already creating history, especially Germany. Earlier this year, they shattered energy records by getting 85% of their power from renewables – namely wind, solar and hydroelectric. Due to high production, the German government had to pay the people to use more energy.
Therefore it is safe to say the world is moving in the right direction. If anything, Trump’s actions have only made people more responsible. It is actually a boon in disguise. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, one man can’t change the efforts that have been taken so far. It is the duty of every civilian and citizen of this world to play their part in saving it. It starts at the grass-roots level. While organic farming, upcycling, and clean energy are all individually important, they are all branches of the same cause – saving earth and controlling climate change. So it is crucial that we take them seriously.
As someone who hails from a developing country, I believe people who can afford them should switch to renewable energy sources, while the rest of us have to use available resources judiciously and sensibly. This includes proper water management, judicious use of electricity, carpooling, so on and so forth. Also, education is an important factor in this struggle. Climate skeptics aside, many people are still unaware of the problems they are causing to nature. They get confused between weather and climate. So it is our duty to teach them the difference and highlight how big an issue this is.