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Paris climate accords: Trump signals withdrawal or changes

Posted at 8:38 AM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 08:38:45-04

(RNN) - President Donald Trump is expected to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Treaty, which acknowledges the existence of climate change and the threat it poses to society around the world.

Joined by 195 countries, the 2015 the agreement stipulates guidelines for nations to limit dependency on carbon fuel, to lower emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, to encourage technological and biological means of controlling carbon emissions, and to explore alternative, sustainable energy sources.

Of the countries that signed the treaty, 147 have ratified it and have implemented some of the guidelines. The only major country that has not ratified the treaty is Russia, where powerful factions oppose rules they say might hurt the country's economy.

The U.S. is second only to China in greenhouse gas emissions. If the U.S. pulls out, it will join Russia, the world's fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only two industrialized countries not to belong.

The 35-page document acknowledges man-made climate change as a threat and the likely irreversible damage it can cause. The language stresses urgency in enacting policies that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, with five-year goals and targets for each nation.

Business leaders, including those from energy companies Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, have expressed support, saying the agreement creates predictability in the market and provides incentives for businesses to develop sustainable energy sources that will replace diminishing supplies of carbon fuels.

Paris Climate Treaty objectives:

  • Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels, and make efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Centigrade. There is a chance that holding the temperature rise to less than 2 degrees will ward off the melting of the Greenland ice shelf and the West Antarctic ice sheet, which would produce a catastrophic rise in global sea level.
  • Preserve forests and save the world’s remaining intact forests. Tropical countries could be paid by nations and businesses if they limit destruction of their forests by logging and clearing for food production.
  • Developed countries are called to shoulder the financial burden by contributing public funds and supporting country-driven strategies, while taking into account the needs of developing countries in the effort. No specific number is given for the amount of money countries should contribute.
  • Transparency and cooperation between nations to create a level playing field for business and to encourage cooperative efforts.
  • Slash greenhouse emissions caused by burning fossil fuels by creating “greenhouse sinks,” such as forests, or other means of limiting carbon emissions.
  • Recognize the loss and damage caused by the adverse effects of climate change through severe weather events and slow onset events (such as sea-level rising, for example). This could lead to liability claims by small countries affected by emissions produced by the big countries.
  • Each country must return every five years with new goals and reduction targets for emissions.

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