United States President Donald Trump announced Thursday his country’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, thus fulfilling one of his key election promises.
In his speech, Trump justified exiting the agreement on the grounds that it was unfair to the United States – and that it was skewed unfairly in favour of developing countries including India, which is the third largest contributor to carbon emissions today.
“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States – which is what it does – the world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters,” Trump said in his speech outside the White House.
The United States is the second largest carbon emitter today after China and the largest historical emitter globally. As of 2013, its per capita carbon emission is still significantly higher than other large countries, according to data from the World Bank, and far higher than that of both India and China.
As the chart shows, the United States’ carbon emissions were 16.4 metric tonnes per person per year in 2013, compared to 7.6 metric tonnes from China and 1.6 metric tonnes from India.
A study from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai calculated the possible carbon budget of countries around the world based on 2009 population figures. A carbon budget is an estimate of the amount of carbon a country can emit into the atmosphere without the global average temperature rising by more than two degrees Celsius. The researchers found that developed countries had already, as of 2009, emitted far more than this budget.
The exit of the United States will certainly negatively impact any collective global work towards slowing the pace of climate change, let alone arresting rising temperatures entirely. India too does have a long way to go to transition away from a coal-driven economy, as Trump pointed out in his speech.
“India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020,” Trump said. “Think of it: India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours. Even Europe is allowed to continue construction of coal plants.”
But as with everything Trump said, this came only with a grain of truth. In the last few years, India has consistently been working to increase its share of renewable energy, even to the extent of announcing the cancellation of new coal mines with the expectation that they would not be needed to sustain India’s energy interests.
According to data from the New Electricity Plan, the share of renewable in energy in India’s installed capacity is higher than ever before.