On 1st of June, news of Donald Trump announcing the withdrawal of the United States (US) from the Paris Agreement on climate change reverberated across the world. The divisive move is not entirely unexpected, it is justified by his supporters as fulfilling a campaign pledge, and is seen by them as protecting US local workers from losing their jobs. Trump and his supporters have labelled the agreement as one that would “hobble, disadvantage and impoverish the US”. It is ironic that the announcement, which has generated strong reactions from world leaders and civil society communities comes just a few days before we celebrate World Environment Day (WED). WED is a day intended to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and to enhance political attention and action. What does this populist move from the US President mean to the Paris agreement and more importantly how will the rest of the world respond to it?
The Paris Agreement was adopted by all Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. It was formally signed by 196 Parties signifying their commitment to reduce the greenhouse gases emission by 2020 with the objectives to curb the rising global average temperature to well below 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to reduce the average temperature even further to 1.5⁰ above pre-industrial levels. While the Paris Agreement is far from perfect due to its implementation mechanism, the importance of this agreement cannot be understated.
In its scope and scale, the Paris Climate Agreement is one of the most monumental documents ever to be ratified at the global stage; it directly connotes and correlates the impact of climate change not only on the environment – which previous climate agreements have done – but to the health of the population at large. It acknowledges the “rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations… as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”
While the impact of climate change on aspects of the socio-environmental landscape has been and continues to be documented, it is important to recognize that the burden is much higher on marginalised groups, including women and girls. ARROW and partners in Asia have found through our studies that climate change impacts women and girls’ health more severely and exacerbates their social and economic vulnerabilities through – amongst other things – loss of jobs and population displacement during times of climate disasters. This increasing vulnerability creates a snowball effect, affecting their health, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). We found that women are more prone to experience negative impacts to their sexual and reproductive health and face increased violations to their sexual and reproductive rights in times of climate related disasters.
With the US withdrawing, the global greenhouse gases emission reduction will be impeded as US contributes about 15% of greenhouse gases emission. The move will greatly affect funding and technological advancement supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation in the least developed countries and small island developing States vulnerable to climate extreme events – a broad stroke that will also impede the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 13. The US had previously pledged USD 3 billion to the Green Climate Fund; however, only USD 1 billion has been disbursed to the fund by Barack Obama during this term. The shortage of USD 2 billion will hamper the capacity of poor countries to address climate change, as well as strengthen their resilience.
However all is not lost, we believe and remain positive that, even if this brusque withdrawal is a significant step back for the global effort to address climate change, the rest of the world will know better, and will not follow the misguided precedent set by the populist move of the President of the United States. Perhaps this is indeed needed to bring the rest of the world to rally together to fulfil our obligations in protecting the environment from climate change and the preservation of human rights of those most severally effected by it.
As we celebrate World Environment Day, the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) calls for:
• States to re-affirm their commitments and cooperation to reduce global greenhouse gases emissions irrespective of US’s decision.
• States to affirm gender equality and empowerment as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, and work towards gendered solutions in mitigation and adaptation programmes/projects and other climate actions.
• States to affirm human rights and right to health, including SRHR, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement. The inclusion of SRHR in national climate change policy, strategies, and planning is essential and crucial to ensure a gendered and rights-based lens to climate action.
 UNFCCC. (2015). Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Conference of the Parties, 21st session, 30 November to 11 December 2015, Paris.
 UNFCCC. (2015). Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Conference of the Parties, 21st session, 30