By Upasana Bhattacharjee
The 43rd G7 summit concluded in Taormina, Italy on May 27 with an unusual admission – the United States has refused to endorse the Paris Agreement regarding climate change. The President is saying that he will be making a decision next week. While there was broad agreement on several issues like trade and other foreign policy problems, there was a clear division on the issue of climate change.
Where the U.S. stands
While the decisions made during the summit are not binding, they stand as a clear reflection of a state’s dispositions. Environmental issues like climate change affect humanity as a whole, thus putting international pressure on states to cooperate. This has led to the establishment of international regimes or institutions alongside the emergence of transnational actors like advocacy groups. States are central to this analysis as the implementation of the policies is done on the domestic (state) level. International cooperation is necessary to ensure substantial effectiveness.
Yet, a revision of climate change policies by the United States government is currently underway. Trump dismissed global warming as a “hoax” over the course of his election campaign. His refusal to endorse the Paris agreement that was signed by 195 countries disappointed German Chancellor Merkel and advocacy groups alike.
The Paris Agreement
Angela Merkel was attending her 12th such gathering. She was previously convinced that she had overcome scepticism about climate change when she persuaded the then U.S. President George W. Bush to cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases. While the Paris Agreement has been labelled “crippling” by Trump’s economic advisor Gary Cohn, President Trump was reportedly receptive to other countries during the debate over climate change.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise of the global temperature in this century. It also aids countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change. A proper framework to enhance financial transactions, technology, support, and transparency is underway. The agreement has been signed by 195 countries and ratified by 147.
Climate change and collective action
At a time when greenhouse gas emissions need to be curbed in order to control global warming, potential discords over the agreement with a hegemonic power could have grave consequences in that other countries could follow suit and withdraw citing the restrictions as “crippling” for their growth. One country backing out of the agreement does not pose any threat to the agreement itself. Rather, it is the country’s status as a hegemony and a superpower that threatens the sentiment of allegiance and compliance to such regulation trying to prevent further damage to the planet. Climate change today requires not just a growth in investment towards research and development of new technology. Efforts directed at bringing the new and sustainable technology to the mainstream market and popularising it are also crucial.
Attempts to mitigate and prevent further damage necessitate institutional support and commitment from most, if not all, countries. This is alongside decentralised implementation to ensure efficiency. The G7 conference revealed a clear demarcation between the Group of 6 that stands to endorse the Paris agreement and the G1 that has not yet made a decision. While the world must wait for the final word, the new American government’s stance on climate change is a deep disappointment. This could become an obstacle to any institutional measures because of its stature as an influential superpower in the world.
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