Climate Action

5 reasons why Trump's exit from Paris isn't the end of the world

US President Donald Trump pauses as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 1, 2017

The planet is moving towards a low-carbon future, with or without the US Image: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Simon Brandon
Journalist, freelance
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Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement has been met with dismay and anger from political and business leaders around the world.

"There is no planet B," said French President Emmanuel Macron in response, while former US president Barack Obama spoke of an "absence of American leadership". There's no denying this decision is a setback in the global fight against climate change; for a start, the US is the world's second-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

But it's not all doom and gloom. The planet is moving towards a low-carbon future, with or without President Trump. Here are five reasons why his decision isn't the end of the world.

 Renewable energy growth in major economies
My, how you've grown ... the increase in major economies' renewable energy output Image: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

1. China now leads the world in renewable energy

China is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide by a long chalk. It is responsible for around 30% of global carbon emissions; the US, by comparison, emits 14%. But China is also the runaway leader in renewable energy research and investment, and the world's largest producer of solar energy.

And following Trump's announcement, China and the EU together publicly reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord. If the US has vacated its seat at the head of the climate change table, China is ready to take its place.

2. Much of America remains committed to fighting climate change

Responding to President Trump's announcement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disappointment with the decision of the "United States federal government". It was a pointed comment, because at the state and city level, many parts of America have already restated their commitment to the Paris accord.

The mayors of 82 cities, including Los Angeles, Boston New York and Chicago, have together pledged their support for the agreement - as have the states of California (by itself the sixth-largest economy in the world), New York and Washington.

The federal government might have ditched Paris, but it doesn't speak for everyone.

3. Global investors are betting their money on a low-carbon future

In May, 282 global institutional investors, with more than $17 trillion in assets, wrote to the leaders of the G7 countries, urging them to remain committed to the Paris agreement.

In 2015, $329 billion was invested worldwide in clean energy. The Chinese government alone invested $1.9 billion last year in renewable energy research and development.

 Global clean energy investment 204-2015
Global clean energy investment 204-2015 Image: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

4. The US is already moving away from coal

On the campaign trail, President Trump spoke often about reinvigorating the US coal industry - opening mothballed mines, bringing back jobs and investment. But that ship might have already sailed.

Today the solar energy industry employes twice as many people in the US as the coal industry. The production of coal has fallen quickly and steadily over the past decade, as the amount of energy generated by wind and sun has continued to rise.

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5. Consumer attitudes are changing

Consumers around the world are taking the environmental and social impacts of their buying choices more and more into account.

A 2015 Nielsen global survey found that 66% of people around the world are willing to pay a premium for goods and services with a positive social and environmental impact - a rise of 16% since the previous year.

The report also found that sales of consumer goods from brands committed to sustainability grew 4% that year - four times faster than brands lacking that commitment. If politicians won't lead the way, perhaps people's wallets will do the job instead.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ActionEnergy TransitionLeadershipNature and Biodiversity
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