Innocent Ruwende in Bonn, Germany
American president Donald Trump has been isolated and continues to receive worldwide condemnation following his infamous decision to withdraw America from the Paris Climate Agreement in which several countries pledged to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases over the coming decades. At the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, parties are meeting without him and are optimistic that the implementation of the rules of the Paris Agreement signed in Paris last year, will be finalised this year, with Fiji making history as the first Pacific Island nation to hold the COP presidency.
Mr Trump’s decision, which has seen him sidelined, has driven other nations to take action, with China spurred to play an active role while France has announced its own Climate summit and Germany re-electing Angela Merkel as “the climate chancellor”. War ravaged Syria, which has been the only member of the United Nations not to sign onto the accord, on Tuesday announced its intentions to sign the agreement during the ongoing climate talks in Germany. Syria’s representative to the climate talks, Wadah Katmawi, said his country last month passed a law declaring its decision to join the accord.
“I’d like to assure you that the Arab Syrian Republic supports the implementation of the Paris Accord in order to achieve global objectives and reflect the principles of justice and joint responsibilities that are assigned according to the capacity of each signatory,” he said. Katmawi also called on developed countries to honour their legal and humanitarian responsibilities in assisting developing countries with technical and financial support.
“Countries that are entering a post-war recovery period, such as mine, need to be recognised as a priority when it comes to reconstruction and reorganising climate and the environment,” he said. Nicaragua, which was refusing to sign because it felt the agreement did not do enough to combat climate change, signed last month. Trump has been receiving flak even in his home country, with California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr announcing that his state would host the world’s climate leaders at a major summit in San Francisco next year.
The Global Climate Action Summit will take place in September 2018. Mr Brown’s office, in a statement on Thursday last week, said California would convene representatives from sub-national governments, businesses, investors and civil society at the summit.
“I know President Trump is trying to get out of the Paris Agreement, but he doesn’t speak for the rest of America,” Brown said. “We in California and in states all across America believe it’s time to act, it’s time to join together and that’s why at this Climate Action Summit we’re going to get it done,” he said. A Climate Science Special Report, released last Friday by 13 federal agencies in the US as part of the quadrennial National Climate Assessment contrary to Mr Trump’s claims, confirmed that human action was the major cause of climate change.
“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” said the report. The findings, which were approved for release by the White House, come as Trump and his top advisors are defending their climate change policies which promote the US fossil fuel industry.
Other countries are also against Mr Trump’s decision, with France stating that “for the time being” Mr Trump was not invited to a climate change summit to be held in Paris in December. An official in the Office of President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that more than a hundred countries and non governmental organisations had been invited for the December 12 summit. The United States will still be invited to the summit, but at a lower level.
A famous musician joined the bandwagon of those attacking Trump, saying the American president’s attitude towards climate change exhibited some “madness”. He accused Mr Trump of backtracking “a lot of the advances that have been made”. The Paris Accord, which is not binding, was brokered in Paris in 2015 and signatories pledged to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases over the coming years. The Paris Agreement was widely viewed as historic as it was the first climate agreement to include the US.
Zimbabwe and other developing countries attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) have called on the United States to respect the Paris Agreement and work with the rest of the world in addressing climate change. Some nations want Washington to be sidelined following Mr Trump’s plan to withdraw from the deal.
“We would like to stand with the Africa Group positions on climate change and call on the Trump regime to be more serious and not hold the rest of the world hostage. This is the time for more strengthened unity in Africa and in the Group of 77 and China negotiations group.” Mr Trump’s pro-coal policies and doubts that climate change is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, could undermine urgency at the meeting of senior government officials and environment ministers.
COP23 will work on a rule book, due to be completed in 2018, for implementing the Paris Agreement on issues such as the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and how national emissions will be checked. Parties expect US officials, many of whom were architects of the Paris Accord under former president Barack Obama, to contribute to clear, enforceable rules and not promote Trump’s pro-coal political agenda which may derail the negotiations. Climate Change Management Department director Mr Washington Zhakata said changing weather patterns — like the hurricanes that devastated parts of the US this year — prove richer nations are not immune to climate change.
“Although climate change undoubtedly poses an “existential threat to our world”, it is not too late to take decisive action. COP23 should deliver tangible results towards strengthening climate resilience of the developing world,” he said.
“As developing countries, we have already done our part in pledging to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases to the best we can without any conditions. The developed world, which have already accepted historical responsibilities for causing the current changes in climate, have responsibility under the United Nations Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their emissions.”
He said most countries had not honoured their pledges, thus creating mistrust as parties discuss the rule book for implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP23. Mr Zhakata said by taking strong ambitious steps to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and building an international legal mechanism to protect the climate, COP23 will protect the poorest and most vulnerable in the global society, build resilience, reap massive economic benefits and build a safe and secure future for the planet.
COP23 is organised by Bonn-based UN Climate Change, presided over by Fiji, with support from the Government of Germany. At least 20 country leaders are expected to attend.