June 8, 2017 10:00 am JST

Editorial: Paris accord could still survive US exit

Cooperation needed to ensure that the fight against global warming is not undermined

President Donald Trump announces America's withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord on June 1 at the White House. © AP

U.S. President Donald Trump on June 1 announced that America will pull out of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, a global framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris accord's significance lies in the fact that almost every country in the world, including China and the U.S. -- the world's two largest carbon emitters -- has joined the pact. The remaining participants must cooperate to ensure that America's withdrawal does not demoralize developing and other countries in their efforts to cut down global warming gas emissions and thus make the international agreement a dead letter.

In his announcement made in a speech at the White House, Trump expressed his hope to renegotiate the Paris Agreement in a way that serves America's interests. But it was not a concrete proposal, and it lacks reality. If global warming goes further, such risks as coastal flooding due to rising sea levels and frequent extreme weather events will increase. Some reports say that heat waves and torrential rainfalls are already causing increasingly serious damage in Asia and elsewhere.

What is important is to ensure that other parties to the Paris accord do not follow the U.S. to leave the framework but instead make steady efforts to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions according to their stated targets.

The Paris Agreement went into formal effect on November 2016. Under the terms of the accord, the U.S. cannot withdraw from the international framework until four years after the pact came into force -- that is to say, not until November 2020. But the U.S. will drop its commitment to working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and also discontinue funding support to developing nations, even before the formal withdrawal process is completed.

The U.S. bears about 20% of the costs for the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which provides the underlying framework for the Paris Agreement. America has also promised to contribute $3 billion to a funding mechanism to help developing nations cope with the impact of global warming.

One fear is that, as many developing countries joined the Paris accord in exchange for international funding support, America's about-face on policy may prompt them to cease their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

China and many other Asian countries are more and more eager to cut gas emissions. So even after the U.S. withdraws from the pact, their efforts seem unlikely to slacken soon. However, Japan and European countries need to redouble their efforts to extend technological cooperation to them.

The Paris accord calls for detailed rules for measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions to be set out by 2018, with the U.S. having being expected to play a leadership role in the work. From now on, China is likely to move to take the place of the U.S. as a global leader in the fight against climate change. All participating countries should work together to establish transparent and fair rules and steadily push forward with emission cuts.

Trump asserts that the environmental restrictions based on the Paris accord will cause significant job losses and shrink the economy. To show how wrong his view is, other governments need to demonstrate what is really happening in other countries by citing their track records.

Innovative technologies in such sectors as manufacturing, logistics and renewable energy, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, do a lot to open up new industries and new employment opportunities. Being aware of this, American information-technology and energy companies -- major players in the U.S. economy -- have voiced their opposition to the U.S. pullout from the Paris accord.

California, while imposing much tougher environmental regulations than those enforced by the U.S. federal government, has been striving to nurture environment-related businesses in the state. We hope such efforts will be supported by the remaining signatories to the Paris accord and that the door will be left open for the U.S. to rejoin the climate pact in the future. The parties should also get the Trump administration to recognize that its decision to leave the accord has undermined America's diplomatic status and international confidence in the country.

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