Imperial College London

Top Imperial academics criticise US intent to withdraw from Paris climate deal

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Solidarity between 194 other signatories, and desire for clean, low-carbon technology will drive down greenhouse gases emissions, climate experts say.

Imperial College London Professors Joanna Haigh, and Martin Siegert (featured above) have been speaking out about news from the United States that the administration of President Donald Trump intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The co-directors of the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, one of Imperial’s global challenge institutes, joined world leaders, 61 US city mayors, several states and many leading American businesses, in criticising the move, warning it would damage the country’s economic and technological growth, and prospects for Americans still employed in fossil fuel-based jobs.

I feel that Donald Trump has declared war on us and our planet. I hope that the very positive actions in many US States, cities and companies and the support from the majority of its people will matter more.

– Professor Sir Brian Hoskins

Chair of Grantham Institute and member of UK Committee on Climate Change

The Paris deal, which was agreed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21 in 2015, was signed by 195 nations and came into force in 2016. Following intense negotiations, these nations agreed to work together to keep average global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The only countries that did not sign it were Syria and Nicaragua.

Responding to the news yesterday that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Martin Siegert, Professor of Antarctic Geoscience, who has been co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial since 2014, said:

“The United States intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a disappointment, but it won't kill it. International action on climate change is assured by the deal’s 194 other signatories.

“If the US invests heavily in outdated fossil-fuels, the country will become progressively isolated economically and technologically while the global low-carbon economy, led by Europe and China, continues to grow without US involvement.”

Rapid reaction

Grantham Institute Co-director and atmospheric physicist Professor Joanna Haigh, told Sky News: 

"The cost of renewables is coming down so it’s quite likely that ordinary people will do better than expected because of the availability of clean energy.

"All the other countries, including the big polluters – China, EU, India and now Russia, are saying they will fulfil their Paris commitments and that they will carry on the right path."

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute, and a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change, said in a comment to the Science Media Centre:

“I feel that Donald Trump has declared war on us and our planet. I hope that the very positive actions in many US states, cities and companies and the support from the majority of its people will matter more.”

Professor Siegert, added: “I and other scientists in the UK will continue to work with and support our US colleagues, whose research is key to understanding the human influence on our climate now, and projections of this association into the future.

“For us in the international science community this is a line crossed, and I expect a concerted and collective reaction to this decision from all Americans who recognise their future prosperity hangs in the balance.”

Moral committment

In addition to addressing a larger share of the emission reduction targets, the Paris Agreement established that the developed countries have a duty and commitment to enable developing countries to reduce their carbon emissions through economic aid and the transfer of clean-energy technology.

Geoff MaitlandProfessor of Energy Engineering in Imperial's Department of Chemical Engineering, and past-President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, said:

"This decision by the US means that the their moral commitment to enable the developing world to reduce their emissions at a cost and rate that they can bear, as they grow their own economies and quality of life, will not be met either."


Lottie Butler

Lottie Butler
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

Simon Levey

Simon Levey
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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