One of the biggest stumbling blocks to PresidentTrump’s participation in the global climate talks is that developing nations get to play by a different set of rules from those of the United States and other economically advanced countries.
“We want to make sure that we do what we can to avoid bifurcation,” George David Banks, Trump’s special assistant for international energy and environment, told reporters in Bonn, Germany, according to Climate Home News.
“Bifurcation is a major flaw in the framework convention, and we certainly don’t want to see it in the Paris agreement,” he added. “So I would say that’s probably the No. 1 priority.”
Under the Paris climate agreement reached in December 2015, temperatures increases would be kept to 2 degrees Celsius by mid century and from pre-industrial levels. The agreement, though, is voluntary, meaning that each country would determine what it is capable of achieving.
As for the United States, it said that it would decrease its CO2 emissions by 28% before 2025 — an agreement reached when President Obama was in office.
China said that its heat-trapping emissions would escalate until 2030 at which point, it would work hard to get them in line with those of the developed world; China and India have said their priority is to first expand economically.
About 195 nations have submitted their non-binding plans to reduce their CO2 emissions. Carbon-free nuclear energy, for example, will play a big role in China, which now relies heavily on coal-fired power.
The United States has mostly been changing out its older coal-fired power plants for those that run on natural gas, given that a cheap supply of unconventional shale gas is available here through hydraulic fracturing. This country is roughly half way to meeting its goals.
To get the developing world on board, the richer countries have pledged to set up a fund worth $100 billion under the so-called Green Climate Fund. It would give those countries access to the technologies to help them cut their fossil fuel consumption while also increasing their use of nuclear, renewables and energy efficiencies.
China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, followed by the United States, Europe and India.
President Trump, of course, has announced this country’s intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement in 2020. Besides doubting climate science, he has said he does not agree to paying into a fund dedicated exclusively to helping the developing world meets its carbon reduction targets.
But such an investment could be a ripe path for industry: The power sector needs $2 trillion for capital expansion over the next 20 years, says Target Rock Advisors.
Utilities that pursue a green path could get richly rewarded. Power companies such as Electricite de France, Enel, NextEra Energy and National Grid, for example, support carbon pricing. Their combined investments in the clean tech sector have driven down the price of wind turbines and solar panels.
As for the industrial sector, most say that — to some degree — they are already divulging their carbon risks, although critics counter that such disclosures are neither transparent nor consistent. Kellogg, Marriott and Owens Corning are three companies to have made such a pledge.
“If we can effect emissions, the financial returns will follow,” says venture capitalist John Arnold. Ultimately, “The demand for these products is not dependent on a subsidy.”
But what is the most effective way to help the developing countries?
To get there, both the United Nations and global lending institutions such as the World Bank are saying that they will place more emphasis on green technologies than on fossil fuels, which will still remain part of its tool box and loan portfolio. The thinking is that the developed world can bypass centralized generation and delivery and go right into decentralized onsite power that runs on renewable energy and is sent by localized microgrids
With the world economy projected to grow four-fold over the next four decades, the threat of greater CO2 releases is real. That is why the Green Climate Fund established during Paris to help the developing world should not be viewed as a vehicle to fulfill campaign promises but rather as a vital mechanism to effect change.
Ironically, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says that poorer countries will have twice the level of carbon emissions as those of their more prosperous brethren. That’s because the richer countries will have access to modern pollution control equipment while those in the developing nations will rely on cheaper coal-fired power.
To that end, Carbon Tracker released its study that says that regardless of the wider efforts to cut CO2 output, temperatures are still on a track to exceed the limit of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius. In the current environment, such temperatures will rise well above those objectives — to 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit and 3.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.
It says that in the first decade of this century, for example, that China’s emissions had grown by 110%. However, from 2010 to 2015, they were only 16% greater.
Key to the effort, it adds, is China’s commitment to reduce its reliance on coal. Along those lines, sustainable energy is on track to rise from 10% of the country’s electricity mix today to 15% in 2020 and by 2050, they will be 30%.