US withdrawal from Paris climate agreement slammed as ‘anachronistic and self-harming’

The US’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, announced by President Donald Trump yesterday, “is a saddening turn for the international battle against climate change” according to advanced biofuels producer Neste.

Nevertheless, the Finnish company points out that the US withdrawal doesn’t have to signal the end of the agreement. The company notes that of the 197 countries that signed the accord, 147 have ratified it.

Neste also points out that the US federal legislation on renewable fuels, the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), remains in force. The RFS includes increasing obligations for renewable fuels for 2017 and 2018.

“The fight against climate change will continue, and Neste's renewable products support states, cities and businesses in the US in their ambitious targets for reducing emissions," said executive vice president of Renewable Products at Neste, Kaisa Hietala.

The Finnish company’s reaction of sadness mixed with cautious hope is one echoed elsewhere.

Washington – Paris – Pittsburgh controversy

On 1 June, US President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Accord, a move which has swiftly caused a great deal of controversy. Announcing the decision, Trump said: “We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be. They won’t be. I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Sustainability body IEMA, the membership body for more than 14,000 environment and sustainability professionals worldwide, said the decision is “deplorable and flies in the face of scientific and economic evidence.”

“The transition to a low-carbon economy provides significant opportunities and those countries that face up to the challenge will be the ones that gain most economic benefit.  The US risks missing out following the backwards step from the Trump Government.”

Meanwhile, Frederik Dahlmann, Warwick Business School’s Assistant Professor of Global Energy, said Trump’s decision would go down in history as “significantly anachronistic and self-harming.”

"At a time when costs in the renewable energy sector are falling significantly and clean tech employment is reaching record levels, the President’s decision ignores the very significant shifts occurring in the global energy system,” said Dahlmann.

However, he also highlighted that considering the global trend towards sustainability, the US withdrawal might not be as apocalyptic for the renewables sector as it seems. “Put simply, the commercial and economic opportunities are already changing America’s competitive landscape such that if the White House does withdraw it will be largely seen as an unwelcome irritation, rather than a wholesale shift in the political economy.”

Chair of the Institute of Chemical Engineer’s Energy Centre, Professor Stefaan Simons, described the decision as “a significant threat to attempts to limit the global average temperature increases to 2 degrees.” However, he also sounded a cautious note of optimism, observing that the US withdrawal could provide an opportunity for those countries still committed to become leaders in the “fields that will be integral to the energy mix in the future.” 

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) said it deeply regretted President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

"Seventy-six years ago, the United States led the free world in defeating an existential menace. Today, the world is confronted with another existential menace: climate change. But instead of stepping up to the plate and assuming its leadership role, the United States is shirking its responsibilities. The rest of the world must not succumb to the same mistake, but rally to defend the agreement," said EESI chair Jared Blum.



This article was written by Daryl Worthington, Assistant Editor of Biofuels International and Bioenergy Insight

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