By Shankar Raj

The decision of the Trump administration to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change is a big blow to the move to protect the earth for future generations. The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations on Monday (Nov 4) that it is pulling out of the agreement.

This means that

global climate leaders and diplomats would have to chalk out a plan to move

forward on climate change without the cooperation of the US, the world’s

largest economy.

The US gave its

reasons. Announcing the withdrawal on Twitter, US Secretary of State Mike

Pompeo said the accord would impose intolerable burdens on the American


“The U.S.

approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy

sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossils fuels,

nuclear energy, and renewable energy,”

Pompeo said.

President Trump

believed that the accord would cripple growth in the US and intrude on American


The US move will

trigger changes in the plan on climate change. To restart the accord without

the US will witness a shift in diplomatic strategy that will require other

major polluters like China and India to step up their efforts. China, now the

largest emitter of planet-warming pollutants, has made significant promises but

Beijing’s ability to deliver is still in question.

China will have

to make major compromises as its industries are the major polluting centres.

Shutting them down will hit the economy and lead to unemployment – something that

China would like to avoid in the light of a major trade war with the US.

India too will

have problems as it fights issues like stubble burning in the northern states

of Punjab and Haryana.

But under United

Nations rules, China and India are considered developing countries and are not

obligated to curb emissions. They agreed to do work on curbing pollution as the

United States was taking action. With the United States out, other

industrialised nations will have to put extra diplomatic efforts on India and


Last year, the

European Union pledged to provide millions of dollars to aid Chinese

emissions-control efforts. But so far China has resisted moves to speed up its

initial emissions-control targets, which foresee greenhouse gas emissions

rising until 2030.

Some nations are

now considering punitive measures. France and Germany this year proposed a

European carbon tax to impose on countries with less stringent climate

protection policies. But any European tax on goods imported from the US would

trigger trade tensions with the Trump administration. Europe has been

threatening such a tax for years and, so far, has not followed through. But now

there may be a re-think.

Will Trump’s

move to pull out of the accord trigger a domino effect? While no other nation

has followed Trump’s footsteps, few are toughening their stand of

emissions-reduction targets. Without pressure from the US, nations may become

bold. But Trump administration’s antagonism toward climate action could dampen

future ambitions.

Though the US

has decided to pull out of the agreement, environmentalists are pressing

states, cities and businesses to cut emissions and move to renewable energy

sources like solar and wind power. One

heartening feature is the hundreds of local governments and businesses have

made emissions pledges under a movement called We Are Still In. This shows that

Americans are behind the Paris Agreement even if the administration is not.

Though a welcome

move, Trump’s stand will jeopardise the future of our planet.