The day after polls closed in the U.S. presidential elections on Wednesday, November 4, 2020, the United States has legally left the Paris Climate Agreement.
Indeed, whilst ballots are still being counted, climate change has been an issue of importance for people in the U.S., with a considerable number of registered voters indicating that climate change plays an important issue in making their decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election, according to a Pew Research Centre survey.
The U.S. exit has elicited comments from a range of quarters including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Chile, France, Italy, UK, and the U.S.-based environment watchdog 350.org.
In a joint statement made available to EnviroNews on Wednesday, Chile, France, Italy, UK and UN Climate Change submit: “There is no greater responsibility than protecting our planet and people from the threat of climate change. The science is clear that we must urgently scale up action and work together to reduce the impacts of global warming and to ensure a greener, more resilient future for us all.
“The Paris Agreement provides the right framework to achieve this. Our efforts must include support for those countries and communities at the frontline of climate change. It is vital that we take renewed action to hold the temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and take best efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
“On December 12, we will be celebrating the five-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement. We must ensure that it is implemented in full. We note with regret that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has formally come into effect today.
“As we look towards COP26 in Glasgow, we remain committed to working with all U.S. stakeholders and partners around the world to accelerate climate action, and with all signatories to ensure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
According to observers, the next four years play a critical role in the fight to tackle the climate crisis. The United States is the second-largest emitter worldwide and its promised emissions cuts accounted for about 20 percent of global reductions. The U.S. directly subsidises the fossil fuel industry approximately $20 billion per year.
May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, says: “A Just Recovery from the global pandemic and climate crisis begins with protecting the integrity of elections – every vote must be counted before the election is declared.
“The U.S. withdrawal has huge implications for the rest of the world in terms of tackling the climate crisis. The U.S. leaving the Paris climate agreement demonstrates what’s at stake in this election. What we need now is all hands on deck for global climate leadership.”
350.org posits that if the U.S. exit from the Paris climate deal became permanent, it would threaten to further weaken its enforcement measures and undermine the resolve of other countries to make their own tough cuts.
The group notes that one of the world’s largest economies further backsliding could seriously jeopardise the efforts already underway to mitigate the changes in climate that are causing extensive damage to lives and livelihoods. On the global stage, it adds, a protracted lack of leadership on climate from the U.S. also risks sabotaging other areas such as trade, human rights.
Boeve states: “Whatever the final result of the election, don’t count the United States out. Despite the U.S. federal government officially leaving the Paris Agreement, there are millions of Americans who reject this regression, are committed to climate justice, and are demanding that the U.S. as a whole – including cities, states and banks – uphold the goals of Paris and go beyond.
“We must redouble our efforts and focus on bringing down the pillars of support of the fossil fuel economy in the U.S. and globally and fight for our right to a clean, safe, abundant and just future.”
350.org notes: “Whilst global governments have stumbled to bring the overarching action needed to tackle the climate crisis, across the globe a huge and diverse movement, demanding climate justice and bold climate action is growing and setting forth a clear, collective vision.
“The vast majority of people want social and economic transformation rooted in a transition to renewable energy sources, including seven out of 10 U.S. voters; now our elected officials must build the political will, step up to the people and the planet.”