'Trump effect' has damaged action on climate, says report

Donald Trump. Picture: Reuters

Paul Melia

The 'Trump effect' is harming the planet as more countries signal they will not be taking action on climate change.

The influence of the controversial US president is slowing the pace of global decarbonisation, a paper from the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) warns.

It argues that despite almost 200 countries agreeing to cut emissions in the landmark Paris climate deal just three years ago, Mr Trump's opposition to climate action is having a global impact.

The report comes as UN climate talks begin in Poland today, and after it emerged that emissions are rising globally for the first time in four years.

IIEA senior fellow Joseph Curtin said Mr Trump's loosening of environmental rules had increased the attractiveness of investing fossil fuel projects, and that his intention to withdraw from the Paris deal would probably lead to other countries following suit.

Russia and Turkey have not yet signed up to the deal, and are unlikely to do so, he said, while the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has also promised to follow the US out of the agreement.

"It is true that other major players, including the EU, India and China, remain committed to the Paris Agreement and are on track to achieve their pledges.

"But it is now less likely that these countries will take on more ambitious pledges which was supposed to be at the heart of the [Paris] agreement," Mr Curtin said.

"The Trump effect could be grinding the Paris ambition mechanism to a halt."

The report, 'The Paris Climate Agreement versus the Trump Effect - countervailing forces for decarbonisation', says a brake has been applied on climate action across three channels.

The first relates to the rollback of US federal regulations which is slowing the rate of investment in green technologies, when "rapid scaling-up is required".

These include steps being taken to repeal the Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing emissions from power generation, and freezing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.

"Following Paris…there was a plunge in investment in dirty assets like coal and tar sands, reflecting their increased risk profiles as developers sought to determine if political leaders were serious about their stated intentions," the report says. "However, the Trump Effect has reduced the risk premium…by creating the impression that the era of fossil fuels may not be drawing to a close, or at least not as rapidly as the Paris Agreement had suggested."

The second 'channel' relates to the message being sent internationally, where other countries like Brazil might follow the US out of the deal.

Meanwhile, goodwill at international negotiations was being damaged by the attitude of the US to climate change, and that efforts to implement the Paris deal would be "assailed by instability and uncertainty".

"These decisions have aggravated distrust between developed and developing countries, which is a necessary ingredient for progress," he added.

"Major economies, international negotiators and investors have, to some extent, adopted a 'wait and see' posture in advance of the US presidential election in November 2020."