There is an element of déjà vu to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change – a deal with its core goal to limit warming of the climate system to well below 2° Celsius compared to the mid-19th century.
Sixteen years ago and just days into my new job as Climate Change Advisor at Shell, President George W Bush announced the USA’s complete withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol – an earlier climate agreement.
The Bush decision was widely expected and it helped spell the end of the Kyoto Protocol. Over the next 14 years, the pieces were reassembled, in large part led by the USA under President Barack Obama, with the result being the Paris agreement in December 2015.
When President Trump made his announcement, the reasons given were largely the same as President Bush; unfairness, concerns over competitiveness, the negative impact on the US economy and price increases for consumers. Like President Bush, he also said his administration would be open to fresh negotiations, or an entirely new agreement.
The circumstances, however, are very different this time around. Given the warming trend to date, governments don’t have time to reorganise, negotiate and agree yet another climate deal if society wants to achieve the Paris goal.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have both made it clear that the Paris agreement will not be renegotiated. They were right to reject President Trump’s proposal.