U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement, on climate change. The Paris Agreement, which is the most important agreement in history addressing global climate change, was agreed to by 195 nations. Since most of the maritime-focused non-governmental organizations have been quick to criticize the move, some shipping industry observers have said this withdrawal puts pressure on the IMO to deliver on its promise to reduce gas emissions from international shipping. Some business leaders, like Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric, and Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, said the decision would ultimately harm the economy by ceding the jobs of the future in clean energy and technology to overseas competitors. “Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for US or the world,” Musk said.
Bill Hemmings, Director of Aviation and Shipping, Transport & Environment, indicates that the “U.S. pullout puts even greater pressure on the shipping industry, saying it is “now or never” for the IMO to act on climate change. We will be watching and pressing all IMO member states, particularly some of those flags of convenience representing such a large proportion of the world’s fleet not to backslide. Already proposals on the table from the International Chamber of Shipping and others hardly deviate from business as usual. It’s now or never for the IMO to act and time for the European Union to implement an “insurance policy” should IMO fail.”
However, U.S. President Trump said, “I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. As someone who cares deeply about our environment, I cannot in good conscience support a deal which punishes the United States,” he said. “The Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” He also mentioned that he was open to re-brokering U.S. carbon reduction commitments, but didn’t express any urgency in bringing the U.S. back into the deal, which he claimed placed “draconian” financial burdens on the American people.
Some industry observers think the U.S. President is making a mistake ignoring the facts of climate change, and isolating the U.S. from the chances that a transition to cleaner technologies and energies will deliver. That does not necessarily mean that the rest of the world, and especially the IMO, should follow. To the contrary, the shipping sector in many ways will be affected by climate change and must take over responsibility.
Dr. Sian Prior, Lead Advisor, Clean Arctic Alliance advised, “It is unbelievable that Trump is pulling back on international consensus on the climate at a time when the Arctic is facing unprecedented change linked to climate and ocean warming. What we are seeing in the Arctic is scary and it is imperative that world leaders unite in their isolation of the U.S. position and that the shipping industry faces up to its responsibilities and starts cutting carbon dioxide and black carbon emissions immediately – a quick first-step should be to stop using HFO in the Arctic.”