Trump Can’t Stop This: China, India, and Mexico Make Strides

President Trump recklessly announced that he's pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement. Leaders everywhere responded resolutely with strong signals that they are going to continue to move forward.
A rooftop solar array in Queretaro, Mexico
Credit: Ignacio Evangelista/Offset

President Trump recklessly announced that he's pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement. Leaders everywhere responded resolutely with strong signals that they are going to continue to move forward despite his stance.

This is our fourth international climate action update, in which we take a moment each month to remember that Donald Trump is not the president of the world—and celebrate other countries’ progress in the global battle against climate change. And check out our series on what is happening within the United States.

One of the excuses that President Trump used for pulling out of the Paris Agreement was that the pact imposed “no meaningful obligations on the world’s largest polluters.” This blatant lie is the exact opposite of what the agreement calls for and what is happening on the ground in the world’s largest-emitting nations.

The Paris Agreement, for the first time in history, contains emissions-reduction commitments from all major countries and provides a clear mechanism to track whether they are delivering on those commitments over time. And countries aren’t just sitting back and waiting, despite Trump’s claim that China “can do whatever it wants for 13 years” and that India has made its commitment “contingent” on receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid. We are seeing real, tangible, and specific actions (some might say “meaningful” actions) by the world’s largest economies. In the time since the agreement went into effect, our experts have documented these meaningful actions taken by India, China, and Latin American countries. And as has been the trend, significant new moves were being announced by India, China, and Mexico.

India and China Projected to Meet Paris Agreement Targets Ahead of Schedule

While President Trump and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt falsely claim that India and China aren’t acting on climate change, recent reports document the significant progress that is already happening in these two countries. According to researchers at Climate Action Tracker, projected global carbon emissions could be two to three billion tons lower by 2030 than previously estimated―equivalent to about the total emissions of the United States for six months. This lower projection is driven by significant energy sector shifts in India and China. According to the researchers, China’s carbon dioxide emissions may have peaked already, more than 10 years earlier than its government had committed to in the Paris Agreement. And India is now expected to obtain 40 percent of its electricity from non–fossil fuel sources by 2022, eight years ahead of schedule.

As these researchers point out: “Both China and India look set to overachieve their Paris Agreement climate pledges.”

Indian Solar Set for Even Greater Surge

One of the reasons that India may meet some of its clean energy targets years earlier than originally anticipated is that the energy market has changed dramatically in recent months. Solar development in India is a prime example of this remarkable shift. India has expanded the National Solar Mission and set a target of 100 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar energy capacity by 2022—five times the original target. And solar prices in the country are dropping at a rapid clip. The public bidding process in May set yet another record low, with prices dropping to 3.8 cents/kWh, a 40 percent drop from last year. India now has solar power generation capacity of 9 GW, has become the world’s fourth-largest producer of wind energy, and has announced plans to cancel 14 GW’s worth of coal plants.

Salt pan farmers in Gujarat, India
Credit: Bhaskar Deol

And it isn’t just large solar farms in India that have seen positive signs. About 43,000 salt farmers, mostly women, produce salt from briny tidal water using diesel generators to pump groundwater over the salt flats. These diesel generators are very costly to run―most of these salt farmers need to set aside 40 percent of their earnings to purchase fuel the following year. NRDC is working closely with India’s Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and other partners to help design a program to bring more than 500 solar-powered water pumps to salt-farming families in the Indian state of Gujarat. And these solar pumps have proven to be more efficient and reliable than diesel pumps. When NRDC’s former president asked the matriarch of one family what she was doing with all the money they were saving, she laughed, gestured to her grandchildren, and said, “It’s all for them. What else?”

India Launches Program to Spur Energy-Efficient Buildings

The government of India has just launched a new energy-efficient buildings program in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture under the administration of the Indian Ministry of Power. EESL estimates that this effort will support investment in about 10 million LED lights, 1.5 million energy-efficient ceiling fans, and 150,000 energy-efficient air conditioners.

Eco-friendly air conditioners being manufactured near Pune, western India
Credit: Wolf Gebhardt/Flickr

Mexico Boosts Renewables Target to 50 percent, and Chile Could Go to 100 Percent by 2050

Mexico has just increased its renewable energy target, aiming to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050. The country has seen a recent uptick in its renewable electricity deployment, thanks to recent policy reforms and the dropping price of renewable energy. As a result, the president of Mexico’s Energy Regulation Commission expects that the next energy auction, later this year, will allow the country to meet its interim goal of achieving 35 percent of renewable energy by 2024.

Wind turbine construction in Chile
Credit: Jamie Fergusson/IFC

Similar large-scale penetration of renewable electricity is also possible in Chile. The director of the country’s National Energy Commission, Andrés Romero, said that the nation could generate 100 percent of its electricity with renewable sources by 2050, surpassing its existing goal to reach 70 percent renewable generation by 2050. The trends in Chile are changing so fast, he said, that “in the next four years, we’re probably going to ask ourselves, ‘Why 70 percent?’”

Countries, States, Cities, and Companies Moving Forward on Paris Agreement Despite Trump

President Trump’s reckless decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement received universal criticism from leaders in this country and around the world. As Brendan Guy, NRDC’s manager of international policy, pointed out, “The blowback to President Trump’s announcement to exit the Paris climate agreement came swift and thunderous.” American governors, mayors, CEOs, investors, and citizens loudly responded that Trump may try to take the United States out of the Paris Agreement, but they are committed to helping deliver on the nation’s pledges in the agreement. As one initiative puts it, “I’m still in.”