President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris deal was a "death knell" for the climate agreement, Indian environmentalists said on Friday with some asserting that the US' move was an opportunity for India to provide global leadership on the issue.
This was not the first time that the US was opting out of an international climate agreement, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said. It had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol saying emerging economies do not have quantified emission targets.
Noting that US is only the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, but also one the major current emitters, CSE said any action to combat climate change will be "insufficient" by a huge margin without the US' active contribution.
Calling Trump's decision "irresponsible and short- sighted", Greenpeace India said it was a loss for the US in many ways and an opportunity for India to provide global leadership on the climate issue.
It added that the US decision was leading to a shift in global geopolitics with China and the EU already positioning themselves to take the lead in climate action.
The US president has announced that the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, saying the deal agreed by more than 190 nations unfairly benefited countries like India and China.
The objective of the Paris Agreement is to prevent an increase in global average temperature and keep it well below 2 C.
The Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015 by 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), replacing its predecessor Kyoto Protocol. It was finally ratified on November 4, 2016.
"With the US president's latest assault on the global fight against climate change, meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement will become an uphill task. Trump has sounded the death knell for the Agreement," CSE DG Sunita Narain said.
"Even if other countries, including the developing countries, raise their ambition, they would not be able to fill in the void left by the US. It is, therefore, not sufficient to shift the burden of addressing climate change to other countries — including China and India," added her colleague Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.
"Pulling out of the Paris Agreement would mean that with 5 per cent of the world population, the US will continue to jeopardise the remaining 95 per cent. Countries need to hold the US accountable for decisions that have a global impact, Narain said.
Under its climate action plan, the US had pledged merely 26-28 per cent emission reduction below 2005 levels by 2025.
According to Ravi Chellam, executive director, Greenpeace India, Trump was out of touch with reality. Apart from governments, an entire spectrum of actors, including religious leaders, bankers, youth, ordinary citizens from across the world, scientists, investment groups and CEOs of some of the world's largest corporations have committed to strong and quick climate action, he asserted.
"The vast majority of the world has already resolved and started to act on climate with the renewable energy industry growing exponentially. India and China, amongst the leading greenhouse gas emitters, have resolved and started to develop clean energy and a low carbon economy in a big way.
"This transition will continue with or without US, which now has Syria and Nicaragua for company as the only three countries, who are currently not part of the Paris Agreement," said Chellam.
He added that climate action has tremendous "win-win" potential for all nations, including India.
"The planet needs the US to do its fair share, but while we wait for sanity to be restored in the US, other countries must accelerate their path to decarbonisation. At the very least, we owe it to our future generations, said Chellam.
Ajay Mathur, director general, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and one of the key negotiators for India during the Paris climate summit, termed the decision "unfortunate".
"It is unfortunate that the US is pulling out of the Paris Agreement. The absence of its leadership and financial support in implementing the Agreement could delay actions to both reduce global emissions as well as to adapt to the adverse impacts of the climate change that has already occurred.
"However, we believe that the positive trends in the decline of prices of renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue to drive global action to ensure that global temperature rise remains well below 2 C," he said.
Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said the US, by becoming an outlier on climate action, will soon realise the "folly" of its secision – that it will lose out on investment, jobs and market opportunities in a lower carbon economy.
R K Pachauri, former chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the US decision was "truly unfortunate" as it completely ignores the scientific reality of climate change and the moral responsibility of the US for taking action.
"In cumulative terms, the US has been the largest emitter of greenhouse gases which are resulting in human induced climate change," he said.