Thank you, Mr. Trump

by Saleemul Huq | International Centre for Climate Change and Development
Wednesday, 7 June 2017 12:45 GMT

Solar electric panels are shown installed on the roof of the Hanover Olympic building, the first building to offer individual solar-powered net-zero apartments in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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Turns out, everyone can put the Paris Agreement on climate change into practice - even without permission from the top

Thank you, Mr. Trump 

The announcement by President Donald Trump that he intends to have the U.S. federal government formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement, thus reversing the position of the Obama administration, has already received a volley of condemnation from many quarters both within the United States as well as internationally. 

But the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christina Figueres, has thanked President Trump for uniting all the other countries in defence of the Paris Agreement, with some, such as India, vowing to enhance their pledges for climate action .

I would like to add my thanks as well - but for a different reason. The outpouring of pledges for continued action on climate change by U.S. state governors such as Jerry Brown of California, mayors of cities such as Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York and indeed captains of industry such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is encouraging. All have vowed to step up to the plate to implement the Paris Agreement even if their President does not. 

This opens up a little appreciated aspect of the Paris Agreement, namely that implementing it no longer requires the agreement of heads of state. Putting the deal into practice can be done by every citizen and does not require permission from the top.

That means implementation of the articles of the Paris Agreement can be done by states, provinces, cities, private and public organisations, universities, NGOs, media houses and indeed every individual citizen on Planet Earth. 

This is perhaps the most powerful aspect of the Paris Agreement, in that it links every citizen on the planet in a common enterprise with a common goal, with heads of states only the signatories on behalf of the people. 

The ball has been taken up by the people and no head of state can take it back - not even President Trump! 

One other aspect of Trump's denial of the science of human-induced climate change is that the White House and the U.S. federal government will not lift a finger to help U.S. citizens who will (and in some cases are already) suffering from the adverse impacts of climate change. They will be left to be helped by their state, city and other local governments - but not by their federal government.

As it happens, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 48 of the poorest and most vulnerable countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, have been working on ways to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change for a number of years and have gained considerable knowledge from experience on what works and what doesn't when it comes to adapting to climate change.

They are already linked up among themselves to share that knowledge through a South-South initiative called the LDC Universities Consortium on Climate Change, managed out of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development based at the Independent University, Bangladesh. 

On behalf of the consortium, and indeed all the citizens of the Least Developed Countries, I would like to offer our assistance to the citizens of the United States in a spirit of solidarity to share our considerable practical knowledge on how to cope with the adverse climate impacts such as floods, droughts and hurricanes.

Help is at hand – even if it’s not from your own federal government.

Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, and a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development,