UN Chief: Abandoning Paris Climate Deal Will ‘Condemn Future Generations to Untold Suffering’

By Patrick Goodenough | December 20, 2016 | 4:20 AM EST

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

(CNSNews.com) – Citing the Paris climate accord as his greatest accomplishment in office, outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that abandoning or damaging it would “condemn future generations to untold suffering.”

“This is a rare and precious achievement that we should nurture and guard fiercely,” he said of the climate change agreement and its global endorsement in record time. It entered into force early last month.

Ban told a Council on Foreign Relations audience Friday that the accord, reached at a U.N. conference in the French capital a year ago, was “key to sustainable future for us, human being, and our planet Earth.”

“To jettison or damage it is to condemn future generations to untold suffering.”

Ban declared that the planet was at “a critical juncture.”

“We are … the last generation that can avert the existential threat of climate change,” he said. “We are the last generation to do something to prevent – stop this climate change happening.”

Climate activists are concerned that President-elect Donald Trump may withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement and its ambitious “greenhouse gas” (GHG) emission reduction goals.

While campaigning Trump pledged to withdraw from the Paris accord, to eliminate President Obama’s climate regulations aimed at curbing GHG emissions, and to “cancel billions in global warming payments to the United Nations.”

Should he make good on the pledge withdrawal from the agreement could take as long as four years. The accord says formal intention to withdraw can only be given three years after it enters into force – November 2019 – and would then only take effect after a further 12 months.

Trump could, however, not proceed with actions towards implementing the agreement.

Moreover, he could exploit what appears to be a loophole in the accord by withdrawing the U.S. from the foundational treaty, the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a process that would take just one year rather than four.

The Paris text states that any party that leaves the UNFCCC “shall be considered as also having withdrawn from” the Paris agreement.

Climate change advocates have reacted with alarm to several of Trump’s picks for senior administration posts.

“Fight back against Trump and his anti-climate nominees,” declares the Sierra Club in a fundraising blurb on its website, appealing for donations for “an emergency campaign to stop Trump’s efforts to derail everything we’ve achieved in the last eight years.”

The Sierra Club wants supporters to urge senators to oppose the nominations of ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson (“CEO of one of the largest and most environmentally destructive fossil fuel corporations in the world”) as secretary of state, and Scott Pruitt (“a climate denier who actively shilled for the fossil fuel industry while Attorney General for Oklahoma”) to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Despite these developments, Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed cautious optimism about the Paris deal and the road ahead, noting recently that Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, met with global warming activist and former vice-president Al Gore earlier this month.

Also, Trump told New York Times journalists last month that he has “an open mind” on the issue, and when asked whether he will withdraw from the Paris accord, said, “I’m going to take a look at it.”

The Paris agreement aims through global emission reduction and other actions to prevent the planet’s average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The U.N. and climate campaigners say that’s a minimum needed to deal with phenomena blamed on climate change, such as rising sea levels and drought.

Ambitious targets include the raising, from public and private sources, of $100 billion a year to help developing countries, by the year 2020.

In his remarks, Ban identified the Paris accord as the greatest achievement of his decade at the helm of the global body.

He recalled that when he assumed the post in 2007, he considered the many priorities and regional conflicts that would need addressing.

“Then I thought much more far-reaching things – which would be best for humanity?” he said. “I realized that climate change was the one.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow