May 25th 2017

Society / Environment

What Trump Presidency means for climate action in Africa

The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President's rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action.

By Jonathan OdongoSaturday, 19 Nov 2016 14:56 EAT

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump

Donald Trump's ascendance to the U.S. presidency is not good news for the victims of one of the major problems facing the world today: climate change. President-elect Trump has not only made it plain umpteen times that he does not believe in climate change but also threatened to undo President Obama’s climate agenda including the Paris Agreement if he wins. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He said in one of his tweets.

Now that he has won, his victory has sent cold shivers down the spines of victims of climate change and those hard at work in the fight against the catastrophe. To make matters worse, a precedence had been set by George W. Bush, also a US Republican president.

In 2001, after assuming office as the President of the United States, Bush trashed the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement meant to reduce current greenhouse gas emissions by putting obligation on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, soon after it was signed by Bill Clinton. It is this action that has been bedeviling the Protocol.

Donald Trump, going by his comments, may as well pull a George Bush on Paris Agreement. If - or when - this happens, the Paris Agreement - an agreement that US under Obama administration was instrumental in seeing through - may face the same challenges as Kyoto Protocol. This spells doom for the developing countries. Why?

Prior to COP 21, countries submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) outlining the post-2020 climate actions they intended to take to cut greenhouse gas emissions, limit temperature rise and adapt to the impacts of climate change. A good number of developing countries outlined how they will adapt to climate change impacts and the kind of support they need to adopt low-carbon pathways and to build climate resilience.

To put in place the adaptation measures, the countries, for example Kenya, stated that implementing their INDCs is ‘subject to international support in the form of finance, investment, technology development and transfer, and capacity building’. This international support often comes from governments and agencies like USAID (United States Agency for International Development). This literally means that under Trump presidency, no funds or support of any kind will be channelled to poor, vulnerable and developing countries to support climate action.

“Donald Trump stance on climate change is a disaster for Africa,” said Lina Yassen, Climate Tracker from Sudan. "Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President's rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change," said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa.

However, not all hope is lost. It might take up to four years before US thinks of pulling out of the agreement. “Paris in now international law and has entered into force and requires four years to pull out, making it very difficult to walk away from the table,” said Tina Johnson, US Climate Action Network Policy Director. But who knows? President Trump might have a change of heart. But if he even thinks of going the opposite direction, a number of activists have vowed to lead him back on the right track in so far as climate action is concerned.

"Whilst the election of a climate denier into the White House sends the wrong signal globally. We, the grassroots movements for climate justice, will redouble our efforts, grow stronger and remain committed to stand with those on the frontline of climate injustice at home and abroad.. In the absence of leadership from our government, the international community must come together redouble their effort to prevent climate disaster," said Jesse Bragg, from Corporate Accountability International.

The writer is the founder and executive director of the Kenya Environmental Education Network





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