World better off without US in global climate agreement – ANU expert

23 May 2017

A climate policy expert at The Australian National University (ANU) says the world would be better off if the US withdraws from the global climate agreement finalised in Paris last year. 

The White House has said it is close to a decision on whether the US will remain in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In a commentary published in Nature Climate Change, Dr Luke Kemp from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society said a rogue US can cause more damage inside rather than outside of the global agreement.

“Having the US remain under the Paris Agreement would reveal the weaknesses of the agreement, prevent new opportunities from emerging, and gift greater leverage to a recalcitrant administration,” he said.

Dr Kemp said continued US membership in the global agreement on climate change would be symbolic and have no effect on US emissions.

“The Paris Agreement is procedural: it requires a new pledge every five years, but doesn’t limit the actions of the US,” he said.

“The US will likely miss its target and cut climate financing regardless of Paris.”

There was little evidence to suggest that the US dropping out will trigger a domino effect, Dr Kemp said.

“Countries are more likely to withdraw or renege on their actions because the US misses its target, eliminates its financing and reveals how weak the Paris Agreement really is,” he said.

“If the US remains under the agreement it will keep a veto in the negotiations. The US could use its voice and veto to water down the rules and details of the Paris Agreement, which are currently being negotiated. Giving the former head of ExxonMobil a seat at the table is a terrible idea.”

Dr Kemp said pushing for the US to remain was short sighted.

“The international community should be more concerned about the actions of the US, rather than whether they are symbolically cooperating,” he said.

“A withdrawal could trigger new opportunities to emerge, such as carbon border adjustments and forceful leadership from the EU and China.”

Dr Kemp said trade measures and an EU-China climate bloc would be far more effective than the Paris Agreement ever could have been.

“While the Paris Agreement is fragile, international climate action can be anti-fragile: the shock of Trump could make action stronger by allowing trade measures and new, emboldened leadership to blossom,” he said.

Dr Kemp will speak at an event titled, “Should the US leave the Paris Climate Agreement?”, hosted by the ANU Climate Change Institute at 6pm Wednesday 24 May at Finkel Theatre in the John Curtin School of Medical Research, 131 Garran Road, ANU.   

Updated:  23 May 2017/Responsible Officer:  General Manager/Page Contact:  Science Web Services