The Paris Climate Agreement versus the Trump Effect: Countervailing Forces for Decarbonisation

IIEA3rd December 20181min
In this publication, IIEA Senior Fellow Joseph Curtin argues that the “Trump Effect” has created a powerful countervailing force acting against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate.

Author: Joseph Curtin, Senior Fellow, Institute of International and European Affairs

In this publication, IIEA Senior Fellow Joseph Curtin argues that the “Trump Effect” has created a powerful countervailing force acting against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate.

At the heart of the Agreement is an “ambition mechanism”, under which Parties are required to make progressively more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions following global “stocktakes” every five years. This mechanism was designed to catalyse greater efforts over the coming decades, but the Trump Effect has applied a brake via three distinct channels:

  1. US Federal rollbacks have increased the attractiveness of fossil fuel investments globally;
  2. The US decision to withdraw from the Agreement has created moral and political cover for others to follow suit; and
  3. Goodwill at international negotiations has been damaged.

Joseph Curtin argues that denying the importance of the Trump Effect is a mistake, but it is also a mistake to suggest that the Agreement is in crisis, or worse still, that all parties are failing to live up to their commitments. In the short-run, the Paris Agreement can resist the Trump Effect—it was designed to do so; but in the medium- and longer-term, it will continue to be assailed by instability and uncertainty until broader and deeper structural factors within the US political economy can be addressed.

The paper can be accessed here.