The Election & the Paris Agreement: Part 2

Following Tuesday’s election, a lot of people back home have asked us,  
What does this mean for climate change, US climate policy, and the Paris Agreement?

One aspect of this question, the impact of the new leadership on domestic actions, was addressed in Part 1 of this post. However, the election has a broader impact as well.

We found that the international community was also following the election closely, and many individuals felt they will be impacted by its outcome at least as much as the average American. As we went about our business observing the conference over the last several days, we took stock of the mood in Marrakech and the best guesses of members of the climate community who crossed out path. Here is a sampling of quotes and impressions on the subject:

What does a Trump presidency mean for the implementation of the Paris Agreement?

“There’s nothing we can do, [but] it’s a step back on climate policy”

– members from the Kazakhstan party delegation on the election. They also mentioned that implications of a Trump presidency on the Paris Agreement are fairly unknown.

Elections are “a process, and the strategy of the [U.S.] government and state will not change”

– observer from a Bangladeshi NGO. He does not support the election result, but does not believe Trump will have the power to change policies in his 4 years.

A representative from the Côte d’Ivoire delegation discussed the turnaround from the administrations of President Obama to President-elect Trump: It was influential that the U.S. was included in the Paris Agreement, but now the international community is waiting to see what Trump’s take on it will be. Trump is considered a fairly unknown force, but the subtext of our conversation was that, as an international power, it would be problematic if the U.S. were to drop out of the agreement. Many countries are waiting to see what the U.S. will do before they make significant moves.

“I think he will not change everything. There is [already] a policy for America”

– 2nd delegate from Côte D’ivoire on how Trump may be unable to change existing trends in U.S. policy.

When America sneezes, Zimbabwe catches pneumonia. If Trump makes bad calls as a President, they’re going to have implications on third world, developing countries like mine. For example, if he pulls out of the Paris Agreement, Zimbabwe, which is already a vulnerable country, is going to be even more vulnerable without support and finance to deal with climate change.”

– Zimbabwean Woman. Contrasting opinions on the impact of the change of American leadership seem to indicate the total lack of confidence on what will actually happen with American policy in the future.

A civil society member, who refused to be identified but was willing to speak to us, mentions that Trump “is a businessman. He puts more energy [towards putting down] marginalized people and discrimination.” She believes we need a bottom-up movement of people caring about their world, since top-down is not happening. “If human beings think about the earth, and the future and future generations, then politics doesn’t matter… If everybody feels that he or she is responsible for the earth, then we can have collective action.”

“If you’re setting off for a just transition and people don’t feel included and like they’re benefiting from the transition, it’s likely to go away.”

– African speaker at an event on the Zero Carbon Transition on how the inequality perpetuated by U.S. politics will prevent us from reaching clean energy goals in an equitable way.

“In the long run, we are very apprehensive about what [Trump] plans to do… If he withdraws from the UNFCCC, that is a very bad sign for the rest of the world.

– Saleemul Huq, IIED/ICCCAD.

Saleemul continues, “you Americans are going to be let down by their own government who doesn’t care about you or about climate change.” Developed countries are used to reaching out to victims of developing countries, but now the rest of the world needs to reach out to “the victims of the United States of America.” A former negotiator and individual who has been to literally every COP ever, Saleemul believes that the international community will consider sanctions against the U.S., suing the U.S., and “will declare [figurative/unarmed] war if the U.S. withdraws from the body of nations working to address climate change.”

“I’m sure you’re all struggling, as I am, to digest what happened yesterday in the US. And I’m sure you’re all wondering, as I am, how the US’s involvement in the Paris Agreement and climate change will impact us all. The answer is, we don’t know.

But I want to remind you of one thing that we do know: WE KNOW that the work we’re doing here collectively today, throughout the next two weeks, and what we’re doing in our home states will continue.

If the U.S. government is going to step back, that means we all need to step up. Political events do not and cannot change the reality of climate change … We all have important work to do and we need to get on it.”

Anonymous speaker at start of Beyond Deforestation panel

Unsurprisingly, party delegates from the Netherlands and the U.S. declined to comment specifically on the election. The guy from the State Department was definitely distressed when I started asking questions, and Avik found out later that all U.S. representatives have been on lock-down physically and instructed not to talk to anyone.

Overall, it’s clear: people outside of the US are also fearful of the implications of Trump’s presidency on the environment, but all is definitely not lost. We have felt truly supported by the community here, as well as inspired by the commitment of many to go on with their good work.

14956435_10157655230015175_2276380381684724227_nA final word of thanks to our week 1 delegates and to Sachi Graber and Ember McCoy for their willingness to dive deeper in this question through this post.

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