Donald Trump “may have done the world a big favour” with his decision last week to withdraw the United States from the global community’s collective effort to re-stabilize a runaway climate, The Energy Mix founder and lead curator Mitchell Beer argues in Policy Options.
The 2015 Paris agreement, Beer notes, was never expected to set low enough emission reduction targets to meet the end goal of stabilizing average global warming at 2.0°C—much less the actual required target of 1.5°. Rather, it began a process that was intended to escalate national commitments over time. The agreement’s “‘ambition mechanism’ essentially [provided] a timeline for countries to increase their greenhouse gas reduction commitments.” The first chance to do so will be a dialogue in 2018, leading up to a first milestone in 2023 for countries to boost their targets.
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Within hours of Trump’s much-teased decision, Beer says, “realization dawned that nations had dodged a bullet. The U.S. could have done real damage” to the continuing global effort, had it kept a seat at the table and used the opportunity “to obstruct, distract, and belittle” good-faith action. As it is, “while the withdrawal won’t take effect until November 4, 2020, Trump’s statement means his negotiators will be taken far less seriously as the rest of the world develops the rulebook to implement Paris.”
Meanwhile, Beer asserts, “every aspect of Trump’s decision creates opportunity for Canada, from a diplomatic void that will rapidly be filled, to the job and business benefits of a $3-trillion clean energy revolution.”
The question, he says, is whether the Trudeau government will seize that opportunity. “Ottawa has pushed through a pan-Canadian climate framework, but focused it on achieving the country’s inadequate, Harper-era GHG target, then approved new fossil megaprojects destined to blow the country’s carbon budget. The country adopted tough new regulations on climate-busting methane emissions, then allowed industry to arm-twist it into a three-year delay in implementation.”
All of which makes the coming months a pivotal time for Canada to arrive at the right climate strategy in relation to Trump. “Now is the moment for Canada to seize the benefits of climate action and emerge on the international stage as a bold climate leader. The world is practically pleading with us to do so,” Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network-Canada, told Beer.