The key conclusion from a seminar organised by think-tank European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (Eucers) at King’s College on 14 June, on the consequences of the US announcing that it is leaving the Paris Agreement, was that the overall impact on other signatories will be small. But it may make achieving the 2degC limit to the rise in global temperatures – relative to pre-industrial levels – even harder than it already is.
In the US carbon emissions are declining because of the coal-to-gas substitution and the progress of renewables, with both being sustainable because they are driven by commercial factors. That’s why the oil state of Texas is producing more wind power than any other state – because it makes commercial sense. As a result, the impact of any regulatory changes by the president, Donald Trump, is expected to be small. It may slow down the decline of coal but it will not stop it – as long as gas supplies are plentiful and cheap.
Under the terms of the deal, the US can only pull out of the Paris Agreement in 2020. That means the US will remain a party to the accord for nearly all of his current term. California and other states and major US cities pledged to continue being bound by the Paris Agreement and will frustrate any changes in federal environmental regulations by taking legal action.
The rest of the world, led by China, EU and India, pledged to carry on without the US.
However, achieving the 2degC goal of the Paris Agreement was already a challenge before US pulling out. With the US out, the world’s second largest polluter, it will be even more difficult. And another question is who is now going to foot the bill?
With or without the US, the rest of the world will carry on, with most countries achieving their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). It is estimated that this will limit global temperature rise by 2100 to 2.7degC. A number of recent studies, by the International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency, Statoil and others, have concluded that immediate action is needed to transform the global energy system if the 2degC target is to be achieved. Without US participation, this may now be even harder, the seminar found.
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