Barney Jopson and Pilita Clark
Donald Trump is sowing doubt over the Paris climate change pact as his hostility towards the deal and the growing swagger of his campaign focus attention on how he could undermine it as president.
The Republican candidate last week vowed to “cancel” the painstakingly negotiated agreement, a threat experts said was unrealistic. But his comments put a spotlight on its slow ratification and weak spots in President Barack Obama’s climate legacy.
While Mr Trump could not single-handedly scrap the agreement — which Washington and Beijing had rallied more than 190 countries to join — he could withdraw the US, the second largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, or block the action needed to cut emissions to the levels promised by Mr Obama.
But if Mr Trump used the presidency to cast doubt on the need for climate action, he could weaken the resolve of other leaders sceptical about the deal.
Attacks on the Paris agreement could occur at three different levels under a Trump presidency.
No single country can “cancel” the deal because it would require each of the nearly 200 nations that negotiated it to agree to abandon it. Once the agreement is in force it is also impossible for a country to withdraw overnight…
The Paris accord cannot take effect until it is formally ratified or joined by 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global emissions. So far, only 17 countries representing 0.04 per cent of emissions have ratified it.
China and the US have said they plan to join this year but they account for only about 40 per cent of emissions. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, the agreement may not start until 2018.