Something very alarming has just happened, and the fears of climate warriors have come true. For a lot of people who have been drawing a parallel between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi (for both positive and negative traits and policy decisions), this is something to worry about.
Why? Because, the US President, Donald Trump, signed an Executive Order on ‘Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth’ on March 28 in a move that may end the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015, and was signed by 197 countries to cap the global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius and strive for 1.5 degree Celsius. This was to be done by eliminating the use of fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy sources.
Of the various important decisions taken during the Paris Talks was the commitment by the US to provide financial support to developing nations for climate change mitigation and adaptation and also to cut down emissions by switching to cleaner energy sources. The former President Barack Obama had unveiled Clean Power Plan (CPP) in August 2015 to reduce nationwide power sector emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The Executive Order, signed by Trump, calls for an immediate reevaluation of the CPP. The CPP was not just aimed at reducing carbon emissions but had far reaching effects. According to an Environment Protection Act (EPA) analysis, the CPP was expected to bring a 25% reduction in polluting particulates, meaning that each year 2,700-6,600 premature deaths and 140,000-150,000 asthma attacks in children could be prevented.
It should also be noted that Donald Trump, in his federal budget, has already eliminated funding for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Green Climate Fund.
The executive order also lifts the ban on federal leasing of land for coal production, lifts restrictions on the production of oil, natural gas, clean coal, and shale oil and gas to increase the production of all fossil fuel resources. The US is already the second largest coal consumer in the world after China. Its per capita coal consumption is five times higher than India’s. Also, the US produces more gas than Russia and more oil than Saudi Arabia.
The order revokes six previous Presidential Executive Orders on climate change issued by the Obama administration, including one on setting standards for carbon pollution from the power sector. The US power sector is a major emitter of greenhouse gases – in 2015, it was responsible for emitting 2 billion tonne of carbon dioxide, more than what India emitted from all its economic sectors.
According to the Renewables 2016 Global Status Report, in 2015, developing economies including China, India and Brazil invested $156 billion in renewables – 19% more than in 2014 and 17 times more than in 2004. Meanwhile, developed countries spent $130 billion, according to UNEP. A large amount of this turnaround was due to China, which invested $102.9 billion in non-hydro renewables in 2015, 17% more than 2014.
The US invested $44.1 billion in 2015. 2015 was the first year that developing countries invested more in clean energy excluding hydroelectric power than developed economies. China has now surpassed the United States as the biggest investor in renewable energy, accounting for $102.9 billion of investment in 2015, over twice that of any other country.
A total of 58 emerging countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa installed 70GW of clean energy in 2015, while countries based in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) installed 59 GW. In five years (2008-2013), the amount of renewable power in developing countries grew by 143%. During the same period, a number of renewables in developed countries rose by 84%.
“Notwithstanding the fact that this presents an unmistakable signal that the US is abandoning its global leadership role on climate change, this is of significant relevance at a time when science stands behind evidence of a fast-changing climate,” says Aarti Khosla, India Programme Lead Of Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC).
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre For Science and Environment (CSE), says that with the new executive order and the budget proposal, Trump has shown that he does not believe in climate change and has decided to go back on his nation’s international commitments to reduce emissions and provide funding. “The US, being the top historical polluter, should have been raising the ambition to address climate change. The Trump administration has instead attacked former President Obama’s climate action plan, vowed to make coal competitive and put fossil fuel-based economy on the top of its agenda,” says Bhushan.
Bhushan adds that Trump’s move sets a bad precedent. Due to the US inaction, the onus will now fall on other countries to substantially scale up their ambitions to address climate change.
At the moment, after China, US and countries of the European Union, India is the fourth largest emitter of Carbon Dioxide. With the US going back on its promise made at the Paris Accord, what is going to be the course of action for the other three emitters, especially India and China who have a huge population and growing energy demand?
Several Indian environmental activists have, time and again, expressed their doubts about Narendra Modi being a climate skeptic. And why wouldn’t they?
According to an India Today story, Narendra Modi had said: “Climate has not changed. We have changed. Our habits have changed. Our habits have got spoiled. Due to that, we have destroyed our entire environment.” So far so good. But what got us worried was when he told The Hindu: “Climate change? Is this terminology correct? The reality is this that in our family, some people are old … They say this time the weather is colder. And, people’s ability to bear cold becomes less…We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed. We have battled against nature. That is why we should live with nature rather than battle it.”
The way the great Delhi smog was covered up or how India has persistently been easing business for the polluting industries in India, it is clear that Modi doesn’t want to give much importance to what the environment lobby had been asking for so, so long. It should also be remembered that according to World Health Organisation (WHO), India has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world and every year 1.2 million people die because of pollution.
We have kept our fingers crossed. Hope Modi doesn’t take a leaf out of Trump’s Book Of Climate Change. Hope the policy and investments in favour of renewables keep growing. Touchwood!