Switzerland: US shooting itself in the foot on climate deal

US President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord at the White House Rose Garden on Thursday Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Swiss politicians and scientific leaders are disappointed and baffled at US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal but agree that in doing so, the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is primarily hurting itself.

This content was published on June 2, 2017 - 16:13

As such, said Swiss President Doris Leuthard, “the United States has a responsibility to the planet.  It remains to be seen whether the individual US states will continue following a path towards more renewable energy”.

Both Leuthard and Franz Perrez, the chief Swiss climate negotiator and head of the Federal Environment Office, found it “regrettable” that Switzerland has lost an important and competent negotiating partner in the United States.  Thomas Stocker, a renowned Swiss climate scientist, said there's no doubt that Trump's decision makes the goals of the Paris agreement harder to achieve.

"It makes the ambitious goal of keeping warming to two degrees Celsius even more ambitious," he said. 

"You could also say that this decision brought 'America first' to 'America behind', Stocker said. "America will become more isolated."

Leuthard and Perrez underlined Switzerland’s continued commitment to the Paris accord, and Perrez agreed that the United States will primarily be shooting itself in the foot by pulling out.

“In many places – including in the US – renewable energy is already more competitive than fossil fuels. If the United States doesn’t want to use that opportunity in the next four years, that’s too bad. But it will mainly be hurting itself,” Perrez told Swiss Public Television SRF. 

Protests formed outside the White House in Washington, DC as many US cities and states pledged to stick to the terms of the Paris agreement despite Trump's decision Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

‘All is not lost’

He was also baffled at Trump’s wish to immediately stop implementing non-binding clauses in the Paris agreement, since by definition the US does not have to pull out of the accord in order to avoid implementing those parts. Perrez also doubts that the international community will be willing to re-negotiate the deal, since it is also not clear what the US president means by the “better and fairer” accord he has called for. 

A commentary in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper agreed that Trump’s plans are very vague but declared that “all is not lost” since individual US states will likely stick to the plan despite his decision. The commentator found it possible that the rest of the world can pick up the slack.

“If the EU and China can convincingly form a strong alliance that insists on the economic opportunities of protecting the climate and can support poorer countries, we can get over the US exit in the medium term.”

Martin Beniston, a climatologist at the University of Geneva who has contributed to IPCC reports, estimates that the US states, cities and firms that have already pledged to keep implementing the Paris agreement could lead to up to half of US emissions – making up 25% of the global total – being reduced through the introduction of new technologies.

“I don’t think the pact will collapse,” he told Swiss Public Radio RTS. “Trump’s decision is politically disastrous…but America is not a monolithic state.”

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