On 1 June, US President Donald Trump, in an unprecedented move, pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. The agreement was a hard-fought achievement and Trump's move has now put the US at loggerheads with the 195 countries that joined the agreement to help ensure the protection of the Earth's environment for future generations.
Trump's decision to leave the Paris agreement garnered severe criticism from international governments, scientists, tech giants and even celebrities. Nicaragua and Syria were previously the only two countries that refused to join the agreement.
What is the Paris Climate Accord and what does it do?
The Paris Climate Accord is the first ever comprehensive international climate agreement. The historic deal was hammered out over a period of weeks in December 2015 and went into effect on 4 November, 2016 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The agreement was loosely framed so as to ensure that each nation can come up with their own customised solutions to deal with climate change issues. In essence, the agreement involved each nation reducing emission levels to ensure that the Earth's temperature remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Although this level of temperature change may seem paltry, the deal put significant strain on food and energy production, as well as on clean water sources.
Moreover, limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees would also help in reducing major climate change risks and impacts. Countries that some assumed would oppose the deal, such as China and India, also pledged to make massive reductions to their policies to limit their overall emission levels.
The agreement also allowed for poorer countries to be financially supported by richer nations. Although this isn't mandatory, it also was a bone of contention in the US Republican-controlled senate, that did not want to pledge cash to developing countries, the Wired reported.
How is it imposed and how do we know if nations are on track?
There is no precise set of instructions on how countries should go about achieving their goals, nor are there any punishments involved for not adhering to it. Instead, the agreement provides nations with a framework on how to go about reducing emissions and attempts to create a culture of accountability.
One way by which the agreement is enforced is to impose climate taxes on companies. Firms producing the most pollution are the ones that have to pay the highest cost.
In order to ensure that all the nations that have pledged themselves to the agreement are on track, they are obliged to meet every five years. This meeting is held in efforts to boost transparency and to ensure that each nation can update their policies and plans in accordance with the latest scientific and technological avenues available.
What happens to the US now that it has withdrawn?
The US is currently the second largest carbon emitter in the world. Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate agreement means that America will likely do very little to ensure that its emission levels are limited. However, it takes four years for any country to legally withdraw from the agreement, which means that the US will officially be removed from the accord at the same time Trump's current presidency comes to an end.
However, if the US were to withdraw from the UN's climate body - the UNFCCC - it could remove itself from the Paris agreement in just a year.