What Will Become of the Paris Agreement?

Any avid reader of my company blogs will remember our celebrations after the outcome of the 2015 Paris Agreement was announced. With world leaders agreeing to work together to prevent the global temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees it seemed a seminal moment in history — reached with the help of years of diplomatic campaigning on behalf of the Obamas, and eventually backed by some of the most influential minds in the world.

But less than two years after the Paris summit, those painstaking negotiations seem set to unravel as, four months into his presidency, Donald Trump has announced that America will be reneging on their pledge — despite the former administration being one of the key influencers in reaching the agreement to begin with. It’s a move which has been met with outrage from global influencers, but Trump’s global popularity polls are not my primary concern.

As a tech entrepreneur and philanthropist who believes that the future of our planet is more important than any individual on it, I’ve made it my business to invest in renewable energy and fund businesses which are intent on improving human life. My own businesses, Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, the Tej Kohli Foundation and Kohli Ventures prioritise environmental concerns as among the most pressing our world has to face — and as such, America’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement leaves me deeply saddened.

The consequences of America’s withdrawal are multifaceted — as well as the powerful symbolism of one of the most influential countries in the world refusing to lead by example, there’s the very real cost to climate change programmes which rely on American funding to survive. The Paris summit saw developed countries promise to send developing nations $100 billion a year by 2020 to support their climate change initiative — but America has already reneged on its first, $3 billion commitment. With one of the richest countries in the world refusing to play ball, will other developed nations begin to waver? Could the Paris Agreement already be dead in the water?

It seems not — for where America has fallen, other countries seem unexpectedly keen to step up to the plate. China, often considered an area of contention in the climate change battle, seem more than eager to fill America’s shoes — and as the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, their willingness to address the issue sends a powerful message to other nations. My homeland India, too, is often criticised as an example of a developing nation which is reluctant to impact growth in order to tackle climate change — yet, alongside China, they are set to greatly exceed the targets they set in the Paris Agreement.

Even back in America, many dissenters are taking action, with multiple states vowing to hold as true as possible to their Paris pledges, despite lack of presidential support. While this may be more symbolic than decisive action, as a lack of supporting legislation and funding may stymy efforts to make real change, the message is clear: the American people care about climate change, and they will take action.

Nevertheless, every country in the world will need to drastically cut emissions in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and the consequences of America’s withdrawal should not be underestimated. With the world’s second-largest emitter refusing to take action, businesses have a greater responsibility than ever to take control of their own emissions and prioritise the issue of climate change above profits. Where governments fail to lead, individuals, SMEs and global businesses have a greater role to play than ever before.