Despite the declarations of President Trump, the U.S. continues to be tied to the Paris Agreement on climate change. However, its tenure does not imply that the commitments are being respected. The executive order signed on Monday by the head of state, designed to roll back a large part of the environmental legacy of Barack Obama, will impede the path toward the aims set out by the agreement.
The policy change does not just reduce the level of U.S. backing in the fight against climate change. The attitude of such an influential nation, home of a major part of the scientific investigation into the phenomenon and, at the same time, possessing an industrial development that disproportionately contributes to the cause of the problem, gives license to other countries to not play their part. Therefore, the impact of U.S. non-compliance is even more critical.
Trump’s order demands that the Environmental Protection Agency dismantle the Clean Power Plan from the previous administration. This had been created with the intention of closing down hundreds of coal power plants, freezing the construction of new installations, and replacing them with clean energy methods, such as solar and wind power generators.
The U.S., the second most contaminated country on the planet and the first per capita, is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent in relation to the levels recorded in 2005. The target date of that objective was fixed for 2025. However, this will not be possible without the regulations of the Clean Power Plan and other measures, the tampering of which is of major concern to the international community, including efficiency targets for vehicles and the moratorium on the opening of new coal mines on state-owned land.
The Clean Power Plan was put forward by Obama in 2014 as a way to convince the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to commit to combating polluting emissions. Chinese resistance to that idea was overcome at the time, and the road was left clear to add the great Asiatic power to the agreement signed in Paris in 2015.
Now however, the roles are reversed and China vows to continue moving forward, even without the anticipated participation of the United States. Neither have other big players, such as India, shown any sign that they are considering a reversal. The endeavor of those key nations is a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. Costa Rica, although comparatively modest in size, should do everything in its limited power to encourage this. In particular, our country should not hesitate in following those grand examples.
The U.S., apart from creating grave hazards for the planet, risks conceding to the others the lead position in the development and adoption of sources of energy that, besides from benefiting the environment, could be more advantageous for the economy in the future. In the U.S. itself, coal power is facing a battle against the increasingly competitive solar and wind production.
The dismantling of the environmental legacy of Obama will take a long time and every step will be disputed in the courts. Various states, including the formidable New York and California, announced resistance to the relaxing of the safeguards against climate change. Nevertheless, the uncertainty brought about by the pivot taken by the Trump administration could have regrettable effects for a fight that, as the Chinese president rightly said in Switzerland, is being fought for future generations.