TrUxit: Trump’s Exit of the Paris Climate Deal – Effect on Zambia

Co-authored by Mwango Aaron Mubanga and Richard M. Lungu

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United States President Donald Trump has announced his country’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. This is amid mixed reactions from various sections both locally and globally. His position is inspired by what may be seen to be patriotic reasons. He says staying on will cost the US 2.7 million jobs. But what is the expected effect of this action on a country like Zambia?

Before we delve into the matter at hand, defining what we are talking about is of the essence. In brief, the Paris Agreement, or Paris climate accord and Paris climate agreement, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified it.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

The reader will recall that on 20th September 2016, President Edgar Lungu appended Zambia’s Signature to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The country also ratified the Agreement on 9th December, 2016. So Zambia is ‘in too deep’ and supports the provisions of the deal.

The question everyone is asking is “How is Zambia affected by such a move?” Well, the actual effect of the US pulling out of the Paris Accord is that funding to Adaptation and Mitigation programmes dwindles significantly, since the US contribution was seen as significant. As a matter of fact, USA contributes significantly to the core budget of the United Nations including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat. Their withdrawal will have a significant impact on the resource basket of the Green Climate Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, Adaptation Fund, among others. This is the case because most developing countries depend on support from the developed country Parties like USA to implement their adaptation and mitigation programmes. Secondly, USA is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change. Their planned withdraw will be huge setback to global response to the threats posed by climate change. This view was also echoed by the Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection Hon. Lloyd Kaziya who stated that the planned withdraw was a blow to developing countries who were adversely being affected by the negative effects of climate change.

Two things immediately stand out. Actually three.

  1. Currently, the Climate Change related programmes that are being run by the Government, such as the United Nations Joint Programme on Climate Disaster Risk Reduction (UNJP-DRR) worth US$20M, Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) worth about US$89M, plus a further €5M and the recently approved Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project (ZIFLP) worth US$32.8M among others, are unaffected because funding for them has already been secured.
  2. The New York Times reports that according to the rules of the deal, which the White House says it will follow, the earliest any country can leave is November 4th 2020. This is in accordance with the provisions of Artcle 28 of the Paris Agreement which sets a timeframe of three years after the Agreement enters into force for a Party to withdraw by giving written notification to the Depositary. Furthermore, such withdrawal will only take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt by the Depositary of the notification of withdrawal. The notification to withdraw from the Agreement by USA will only take effect as of 4th November, 2019. Since the Agreement entered into force on 4th November, 2016, the USA Government may only be allowed to completely withdraw as of November, 2020, meaning the US will remain party to the deal for what seems like the full current term of presidency for Trump.
  3. There is an apparent shift of leadership on the Climate Change fight from the top US Government administration to the lower structures instead. This is according to Financial Times of the USA. This comes as private companies and individual leaders of various States pledge to commit resources towards the fulfilment of America’s contribution to the Paris Deal so that it would be as if the US had not withdrawn from the Paris Climate deal. For instance, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said local jurisdictions are “preparing to figure out how we demonstrate to the rest of the world that the United States is still on board, even if it’s not happening at the national level.” (Johnny Andrews/The Seattle Times). It is not yet clear what the mechanisms of private individuals and corporations or individual States, as opposed to countries, are to contribute to provisions of a treaty such as this one.

The one thing that is clear from the outset is that there is now more widespread commitment than ever to ensuring that the fight against climate change is fought fiercely by different nations and players across the globe. The Chinese Government has committed itself to taking up the leadership by committing a lot support for developing countries to invest in renewable energy. Other developed countries have pledged support and their commitment to reducing emission of greenhouse gases and contribute to the attainment of the overall goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This  - is important, for where there is a will, there will inevitably be a way. In summary, we can leverage all the goodwill and coupled with all the currently available resources towards the fight against climate change to wage a decisive fight and push towards our goals to reduce carbon emissions and to adapt as best as we can.

The future is bright. If and when the US pulls out, there will be institutions and States that will try to ensure that the US’s goals are met as if there was no pull out. We have up to 2020 before the US can withdraw. And we currently have the funding for the ongoing programmes. We also have opportunity to access more support for more projects before 2020. The challenge is for us as a nation to do the best that we can with the available resources.