By: Jasmine Owens
Last November, the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) took place in Marrakech. The successor of the Paris Climate Agreement, the 200 nations present at the COP22 created a plan to reach their greenhouse gas emission standard goals. However, the accession of the Trump administration may lead to a shift in U.S. support for the treaty.
The summit came to a satisfying and hopeful end as enough countries ratified the Paris Agreement for it to become international law. Under the agreement, countries formulated strategies to severely cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and a consensus was met for the next meeting to be in 2018. However, there was one hiccup as then president-elect Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from the agreement. As a critical power in the international system, leaders from many nations worried that an American withdrawal from the agreement could mean an untimely death for the entire accord and hinder future cooperation. However, several leaders who remain adamantly committed to the cause refuse to let President Trump sully the hard work and dedication that they put into birthing the accord.
According to Dirk Forrister, the president and chief executive of the International Emissions Trading Organization, “If one big country backs out it could trigger a whole wave of responses.” Unofficially, some diplomats discussed possible recourse against the United States if President Trump follows through with his threat. A popular idea was to place a carbon tax on the United States in order to offset the future damage caused by lack of conservational effort. While the climate pact currently lacks an enforcement tool, the diplomats can impose individual sanctions on the United States. Mexico and Canada have both considered the proposition of a carbon tax, while former French president Nicolas Sarkozy suggested that if President Trump bails, the European Union should impose additional taxes on American imports. It is clear that leaders around the world are willing to fight for the climate agreement, in an understanding that conserving the environment is a crucial issue that can no longer be ignored. The sanctity of the planet is of the utmost importance, as time is running out to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere due to human activity. It is predicted that the Earth will warm between two and six degrees Celsius over the next century, a rate that is 20 times faster than it has taken the planet to warm over a span of the previous 5,000 years. It is imperative that countries lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
Some politicians have decided not to premeditate responses to a United States departure; rather, they will wait for President Trump to execute a policy before cutting the cord of civility between nations, at least on this matter. There is a slight possibility that President Trump will disregard his previous words and commit to the climate agreement. More likely however, his historic disregard for environmental conservation and his recent actions of wiping climate change data from the White House website suggests that President Trump has no intentions of adding support his of the COP22 to his political agenda. Furthermore, economists worry that a carbon tax could backfire against an unpredictable Trump administration, risking a trade war. From his commitment to his campaign trail promises, President Trump does not appear to be someone who will back down from a threat; it seems the most likely outcome would be retaliation, with it being unclear how far he is willing to go.
With that in mind, diplomats and leaders alike should refrain from reactionary taxes or sanctions until there is definitive action by President Trump. However, it has been made evident that despite a lack of support from the United States, various nations are more determined now than ever to enact the provisions of the accord in order to preserve what is left of the deteriorating atmosphere. From here on out, it is a waiting game until the world learns of the environmental intentions of the 45th president of the United States.