President Trump’s proclaimed intention to pull the USA out of the Paris Agreement on climate change is, unfortunately, one more big step backward for USA credibility and influence on the world stage. The rest of the world has reacted with disappointment, anger, and a renewed determination to press forward to defeat climate change.
The reaction of the French President Emmanuel Macron was immediate and elegant:
“If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortages – a dangerous world. … The Paris agreement remains irreversible and will be implemented, not just by France but by all the other nations. We will succeed because we are fully committed. We all share the same responsibility: Make our planet great again. “
Here’s Macron’s speech in French (more complete).
“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible, and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” declared German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni.
“Today’s announcement has galvanised us rather than weakened us, and this vacuum will be filled by new broad committed leadership. Europe and its strong partners all around the world are ready to lead the way”, said Miguel Arias Cañete, EU commissioner for climate action and energy.
Japan’s environment minister, Koichi Yamamoto, reacted: “It’s as if they’ve turned their back on the wisdom of humanity. … In addition to being disappointed, I’m also angry.”
The Vatican said the US pullout represented a “huge slap in the face” for the pope and a “disaster for everyone”.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who chairs a group of 40 major cities, said: “No matter what decision is made by the White House, cities are honouring their responsibilities to implement the Paris agreement. There is no alternative for the future of our planet.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to go “above and beyond” the Paris Agreement on climate change. India is the world’s third-largest carbon emitter.
China is on track to not only achieve but possibly overachieve its CO2 emissions goal under the Paris agreement, as it continues to shut down coal plants, increase non-fossil energy and grow its forest stock.
Even in America Trump’s decision is not popular. Pulling out of the Agreement will not unleash an economic renaissance for coal, nor make climate change any less of a pressing issue. Neither the laws of physics nor economics can be wiped away by executive order.
Naomi Klein takes an important long view of US Climate policy. She writes, “Pretty much everything that is weak, disappointing, and inadequate about that deal is the result of U.S. lobbying since 2009.
“The fact that the agreement only commits governments to keeping warming below an increase of 2 degrees, rather than a much safer firm target of 1.5 degrees, was lobbied for and won by the United States. The fact that the agreement left it to individual nations to determine how much they were willing to do to reach that temperature target, allowing them to come to Paris with commitments that collectively put us on a disastrous course toward more than 3 degrees of warming, was lobbied for and won by the United States.
“The fact that the agreement treats even these inadequate commitments as non-binding, which means governments apparently do not have anything to fear if they ignore their commitments, is something else that was lobbied for and won by the United States. The fact that the agreement specifically prohibits poor countries from seeking damages for the costs of climate disasters was lobbied for and won by the United States.” And more…
But the American people, in their majority, have understood. Al Gore, who heads The Climate Reality Project, noted, “If President Trump won’t lead, the American people will. Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge. We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president; but no matter what he does, we will ensure that our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy continues.”
Representatives of American cities, states and companies plan to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord.
Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and now UN cities and climate ambassador, said, “Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it. That’s the message mayors, governors, and business leaders all across the US have been sending.”
Widespread divestment from fossil fuels could be a powerful grass-roots weapon against climate change.
– Julie Wornan