“America needs the good old global warming to cope with the massive West Coast snowfalls.” This is one of the statement on climate change with a mixture of scepticism and indifference from the US President Donald Trump. This is part of the withdrawal from the climate agreement concluded at the COP21 in Paris and the concomitant interruption of contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund.
The Paris agreement included specific objectives such as reducing the global temperature below 2°C and limit the CO2 emissions, and more general results, based on an innovative, multilateral, responsible and transparent approach by the single nations and by the High Ambition Coalition. The ultimate goal is to cope with “one of the biggest current threats to the future of our planet” as defined by the UN Secretary General António Guterres. That means global warming.
The “Fossil fuels” option
The United States, the second world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, is a key player in the climate change scene. The Obama administration cuts global emissions by 2.6% in 2015 and 1.7% in 2016, on the other hand, the Trump administration has turned in the direction of a dramatic ending for the future of our planet.
The reasons given by the American president to explain the withdrawal from the Agreement are based on the negative economic implications for American citizens and businesses. However, recent studies made by the World Bank have shown that in the long-term the use of fossil fuels will lead to higher spending on health-care and therefore they will reduce labour productivity, which could instead increase with investments in the renewable energy sector.
The Trump Attitude also faces an internal opposition by States and Companies of the economically dynamic regions that have declared they want to continue with the commitments made in Paris and, where possible, also to go further. However, the Rust Belt States – crucial to the victory of Trump and where the President declared he wants to restore the coal and steel mines.
Positive signals on the world stage
The U.S. environmental policy also clashes with the policies of other states, from those of the Green Scandinavia as Sweden that intends to be the first country in the world without fossil fuels by 2020, to the small but significant changes that are taking place in the Middle East. Saudi Minister of Energy, Khaled Al-Faleh, has recently declared that Riyadh is trying to reform the energy system and aims to get 10% of electricity from renewables by 2023.
The positive signals that emerged on the world scene at the national level are reported in multilateral forums, and new incentives for them are proposed by international organizations. Historically, the United Nations have been a champion of environmental protection, from the Brundtland Report (1987), through the Agenda 21 on climate change (1992), and thanks to numerous international guidelines and agreements, proposing an indissoluble link between economic development and environment. This link is inspired by the concept of sustainable development, namely it is able to meet the needs of present generations, without compromising those of future generations.
The UN instruments recall the principles of soft law such as the environmental impact assessment, the polluter-pays principle, the precautionary principle, the procedural obligations as the urgent notification of global environmental issues and the principle of development sustainable. However, these policies are also accompanied by international agreements and, even if environmental standards are not yet provided under general international law, the national liability for environmental damage is governed by the same rules used for the international responsibility of unlawful act.
The role of OSCE and civil society
In this struggle to put the interests of the planet before any other national interest, the United Nations are not alone. In addition to numerous institutes and agencies dependent on U.N., we must highlight the role of numerous NGOs and the OSCE as a permanent diplomatic forum (Leads by Italy in 2018). Through the coordination of economic and environmental activities, the OSCE implements projects aimed at the safe management of climate and hazardous waste, promoting dialogue between participating States, energy efficiency and green growth.
As stated in November 2017 at Bonn’s COP23, states are taking the right path thanks to the joint and multilateral action. At the same time, a greater awareness at the level of civil society becomes necessary since important economic and geopolitical actors can not be left out.
According to that, subsidies, agricultural reforms, sanctions in the event of climate disasters and support for green innovation must be supported by a civic culture capable of environmental education inclusion. Recent studies made by Yale University demonstrates that the 40% of people in the world have never heard about climate change.
With the environmental education we can solve this gap and drive companies to become more resilient to climate problems, we can show the great economic possibilities of renewables to international investors and face local problems with global technologies and tailor-made solutions. A greater awareness of the problem is not only the key to overcome the huge effects of climate change, but also an opportunity to undermine the inertia that prevents states from moving towards a cleaner, fairer and more productive development. A development that support the life of our planet.