The Paris Agreement on climate change—the groundbreaking new global climate pact—comes into force on November 4. If Donald Trump is elected four days later, he has said he will “cancel” it.
In an indication of just how exasperated the global environmental community feels about Trump’s anti-environment, pro-fossil fuel agenda—embodied by his stance on the Paris Agreement—this week Chinese officials made the rare and powerful decision to criticize a presidential candidate.
Xie Zhenhua, China’s longtime climate chief, said that if a Trump administration resists the global effort to combat climate change, “I don’t think they’ll win the support of their people, and their country’s economic and social progress will also be affected.”
“I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends,” Zhenhua said.
After years of preparation, more than 195 countries pledged to reduce their carbon emissions as part of the COP 21 meeting last year. As it comes into force, the hard work of actually following through on those commitments lays ahead. In order to stay on top of quickly rising global emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change damage, countries need to work together. Trump’s lack of leadership on these issues would be the antithesis of that.
The United States and China, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, officially joined the Paris Agreement together on September 3 when President Obama met with China’s President Xi Jinping in China. China is sending more than 80 negotiators to the next major round of global climate talks, COP 22, taking place in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh starting November 7.
According to a recent article in Climate Home, many negotiators will initially be distracted from their primary task of hashing out the details of the massive agreement due to concerns over the U.S. election:
…It will start on a high, as the Paris Agreement on climate change comes into force on 4 November. The party will be brief: all eyes will be on the U.S. elections on 8 November. Ignore anyone who says this won’t affect the Paris deal: they are wrong.
A Donald Trump presidency means all bets are off. The billionaire isn’t a big believer in man-made global warming and wants the U.S. to boost its use of fossil fuels. Hillary Clinton is likely to follow Barack Obama’s climate plan, no shock given the man running her campaign–John Podesta–was the architect of the White House’s current strategy.
Nearly 400 members of the National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel Prize winners, are highly concerned over the prospect of a Trump presidency and its impact on climate action.
In September they posted an open letter warning that the consequences of opting out of the Paris agreement—Something they called a “Prexit”—would be “severe and long-lasting” both for the climate and for the international credibility of the United States:
Our fingerprints on the climate system are visible everywhere. They are seen in warming of the oceans, the land surface, and the lower atmosphere. They are identifiable in sea level rise, altered rainfall patterns, retreat of Arctic sea ice, ocean acidification, and many other aspects of the climate system…
During the Presidential primary campaign, claims were made that the Earth is not warming, or that warming is due to purely natural causes outside of human control. Such claims are inconsistent with reality…We are certain beyond a reasonable doubt, however, that the problem of human-caused climate change is real, serious, and immediate, and that this problem poses significant risks: to our ability to thrive and build a better future, to national security, to human health and food production, and to the interconnected web of living systems.
According to Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at Union of Concerned Scientists, the climate summit this year needs to accomplish three main things (not including focusing on the task at hand and not the election). He said in a statement that countries needs to ramp up near-term actions to reduce emissions, intensify efforts to complete all the necessary rulemaking for the agreement, and lay the groundwork for stronger national commitments to be put forward by 2020.
“The unprecedented speed with which countries acted to bring the Paris Agreement into force, as well as last month’s agreement on phasing down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol, gives me hope that Marrakech can and will make the progress needed on all three of these fronts,” he said.
The Paris Agreement is coming into force 30 days after being approved by at least 55 parties representing at least 55% of global emissions. Russia became the largest greenhouse gas emitter not to have ratified the agreement after India and the EU signed on in early October.
According to Angelina Davydova, a senior lecturer at St. Petersburg State University, Russian representatives say they need more time to evaluate the effects of the agreement on the Russian economy, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
If Trump becomes president, they are likely to get a lot more time.