Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement means other countries will spend less to fight climate change

 In U.S.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty by Danish artist Jens Galschiot emits smoke in a park outside the 23rd U.N. Conference of the Parties climate talks in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 17. (Martin Meissner/AP)

The recent round of U.N. climate negotiations ended Friday in Bonn, Germany. While no important decisions were made on climate finance — transfers from wealthy to poor countries to support climate mitigation and adaptation — the question of who pays for global climate gave rise to heated debates.

Formally a technical meeting to finalize the design of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, the summit was the first after President Trump’s June 2017 announcement to withdraw from the deal.

Trump’s decision leaves the United States alone outside the Paris agreement. While U.S. noncooperation shouldn’t deter other countries from pledging climate action, my recent research with Thijs Van de Graaf shows that it threatens industrialized countries’ promises of climate finance for mitigation and adaptation in poorer countries.

The overall Paris framework will probably survive without the United States

The basic idea of the Paris agreement is pretty simple. Each country pledges action to lower its carbon footprint, and countries together review everyone’s efforts every few years. For example, a country could pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a certain amount by the year 2030 or promise to double the share of renewable energy in power generation. The hope is that over time countries increase their ambition level so that they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and we all can avoid rapid climate change.

Trump’s withdrawal is unlikely to directly threaten this growing ambition. The entire world — and much of the United States — is behind the Paris agreement, and the cost of clean energy is falling. With solar power, electric vehicles and more, inexpensive opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are expanding.

But the U.S. absence will take a real bite out of funding for climate mitigation

However, Trump’s withdrawal can threaten future cooperation through another channel. If the United States refuses to finance climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, then industrialized countries will have a hard time keeping their promise to offer $100 billion in climate finance every year from 2020.

These funds would support renewable energy, energy efficiency, forest conservation and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The money would also help poorer countries adapt to the consequences of climate change. For example, climate finance could fund levees to protect cities from flooding.

In 2014, the United States offered about $2.7 billion in climate finance, a sum comparable with contributions from Germany and France. With the Trump administration refusing to contribute, other industrialized countries will face great difficulties in putting together enough funds.

There’s a real risk that developing countries will no longer trust the governments of the industrialized world on climate issues. The broken promise could poison climate negotiations in the future.

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