We will proceed with climate agreement even without US – Gonsalves

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The Caribbean Community (Caricom) led the world in ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change. It also helped that the most powerful industrial nation, the United States (US), supported the pact when it committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 per cent by 2025 to help slow global warming.

However, things took a different turn when US President Donald Trump threatened to pull America out of the agreement. He has since carried through on his threat by making it official that the US will no longer be part of the world pact on climate change. Some experts say there will likely be long term effects for low-lying and island states, such as the majority of those in the Caribbean, if nothing is done to stem the flow of greenhouse gases being pumped into Earth’s atmosphere.

Dr Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines has said he will try to persuade the US to return to the pact.

He said that big economies such as China and the US, which together represent almost 40 per cent of global emissions, should have a seat at the table but noted that since the Americans have withdrawn, his only recourse as a “responsible neighbour” was to coax them back in.

“We talk about persuading them, but we will proceed without them if needs be. The world is a whole lot bigger than America. That is my approach both in principle and practice. I think what we have to do is try and persuade them.

“It is a steep challenge, but remember, now, that the US is a federal government, and there are governors in many of those states who are doing a lot of climate-resilience matters on their own,” said Gonsalves, whose tiny island state of just 111,000 people was recently elected to serve as a non-permanent member of the powerful United Nations Security Council.

The Paris Agreement is the first truly global commitment to fight the climate crisis and sees the European Union and 195 countries signing on to a single, sweeping agreement that aims to keep global warming to well below 2 °C.

Challenges

Jamaica, like many developing countries, including small-island developing states, is challenged by rising sea levels, eroding coastlines, rising temperatures, and more powerful and frequent weather events.

Jamaica ratified the Paris Agreement in April 2017 to become the 143rd country to have done so.

The US withdrawal from the agreement in June 2017 had came as no shock, as President Trump had hinted at pulling his country before being elected.

Trump completely erased the climate policies introduced by former President Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan and also issued the Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.

“The United States of America is 330 million people. The world has 7.5 billion. Now clearly, as the largest economy and historically the largest polluter – though that may not be the case now, but historically, they have been – one would have thought it important that they abide by the agreement. But that has failed. We have our work cut out for us,” said Gonsalves. (Jamaica Gleaner)

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