Could Donald Trump ‘dramatically threaten’ the Paris climate deal?

Former COP21 president Laurent Fabius has warned that having a "climate change denier" as US president could "dramatically" threaten global action on climate change agreed upon as part of the historic Paris accord.

Fabius, who stepped down as president of COP21 in February, has stated that, even with 175 countries signing last month’s Paris Agreement, the potential repercussions of the upcoming US elections means that nothing in the fight to combat climate change has been settled.

Speaking to an audience in London on Wednesday (4 May), the former French foreign minister said: “Think about the impact of the coming US presidential elections. If a climate change denier was to be elected, it would threaten dramatically global action against climate disruption.”

Donald Trump – who wasn’t directly mentioned in Fabius’ speech – took a huge step to becoming the Republican nomination for US President on the same day, as his last remaining competitor Ted Cruz dramatically suspended his US presidential campaign after defeat in Indiana.

Trump is an outspoken climate change denier, having previously tweeted that the concept of global warming was “created” by the Chinese to gain economic advantages over the US. The businessman-turned politician has already locked horns with COP21 delegates after claiming that listing global warming as the number one global problem was “one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard”.

Despite these shocking claims from the Republican frontrunner, a new survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has revealed that the majority of his voters do believe in man-made climate change.

According to the survey, 56% of Trump followers agree that man-made climate change is real – but this is still a long shot away from the 92% of Hilary Clinton voters and 93% of those following Bernie Sanders. Just 38% of those who voted for Ted Cruz believe in man-made climate change.

Unlikely heroes

Fabius’s comments about the effects of the US election on climate action comes in the same week that a new report has concluded that global efforts to curb climate change will also hinge on the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to keep the 2C pathway on track.

The Sense and Sensitivity report report, from London-based green finance specialist Carbon Tracker, has revealed that big oil companies including Shell and BP could raise market values by almost £100bn if they embed “carbon-sensitive” initiatives.

As the first independent 2C stress test published of upstream spending on new oil and gas projects, the report suggests that oil prices would have to reach “unprecedented levels” of $180 per barrel for the oil industry’s business as usual approach to remain financially attractive.

“In a 2C world, the major oil and gas companies will need to manage declining demand for oil,” Carbon Tracker’s advisor and co-author of the report Mark Fulton said. “However, this can still prove to be a value-add proposition if they simply avoid developing high cost, high carbon projects.”

The $180-per-barrel price is well above the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) price outlook averages, which reach $80 per barrel until at least 2040, while the International Energy Association’s (IEA) 450 scenario – which measures energy prices and output against the 2C pathway – has oil prices averaging less than $100 a barrel to 2040.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative believes this could lead to fossil fuel companies wasting more than $2trn by pursuing projects that are unneeded in a low-carbon world. The research also introduces the concept of a Fossil Fuel Risk Premium (FFRP) for companies which run this risk by assuming high demand.

But, as big oil is urged to adapt to the 2C pathway, Tesla founder Elon Musk has claimed that until policy makers stop taking the “easy path” with fossil fuel subsidies, there will be little chance of ushering in a low-carbon economy. In a speech last night, Musk warned that the public may need to “revolt” in order to tackle the “unrelenting” pressure of the fossil fuel industry – which has received four times as many subsidies as renewables over the past few years.

Matt Mace

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