By Alessandro Di Bussolo & Linda Bordoni
No matter who wins the US presidential election, the United States officially pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement today, 4 November 2020.
The landmark deal, struck in 2016 and adopted by 197 countries, aims to limit global warming to below 2° Celsius and strive to hold it at 1.5 degrees, by garnering increasingly ambitious voluntary commitments from governments.
But in June 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the agreement and has since put in motion a process to remove his country, the world’s No. 2 emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, from the agreement saying it was too costly.
Climate change has been one of the battlefields of the just-ended presidential campaign with Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, promising not only to recommit to the Paris Agreement but to make the US a global leader on climate action.
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged nations to care for creation and fight global warming. He has expressed support to the Paris Agreement and said that modern society has “pushed the planet beyond its limits and the time to fix a climate emergency is running out.”
His encyclical Laudato sì calls on humanity to take action for climate justice and on this year’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in September, he said “forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify. Creation is groaning!”
Global Catholic Climate Movement
We spoke to Tomás Insua, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, an independent movement that aims to help the Catholic Church turn the Laudato sì’ call into action, about the impact of the US’s withdrawal from the Climate Accord.
Insua explained that today’s deadline is really a formality “that is pretty irrelevant because the United States already exited the Agreement four years ago, on the first day of the Trump Administration.”
“Trump has consistently dismantled all environmental regulations, boosting pollution in the United States, which means that de facto they already left a long time ago,” he said.
Insua said that huge damage has been done in the past four years, but it remains to be seen as a result of this election, expressing his belief that: “The result of the elections will determine the severity of the climate crisis for centuries to come.”
“So if Trump wins, it is 'Game-Over' for the climate crisis. The climate cannot deal with four more years of this destruction. If Biden wins instead, we will see what happens, but he has to quickly bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement,“ he said.
In either case, Insua continued, the emergency couldn’t be greater. He said the Paris Agreement requires urgent implementation at all levels, in all countries, “especially in the US given that is the greatest carbon emitter in historical terms,” and therefore has the biggest responsibility to tackle this crisis.
But of course, he concluded, it is not up to the United States alone: it’s the whole of humanity that needs to act together and “respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor which are as intense as ever.”