Steady push to limit greenhouse gas emissions despite Trump announcement
Despite Washington’s decision to pull out of the global Paris climate change accord, the movement to limit greenhouse gas emissions remains strong and wouldn’t be slowed by US action.
That assurance came from Selwin Hart, Barbados’ Ambassador in Washington who told THE NATION that the Paris agreement which was enthusiastically endorsed by Barack Obama when he was the US President but later repudiated by his successor, Donald Trump, has gained widespread backing from state governmental and legislative levels across the US as well as support from the private sector and a long list of national and local institutions concerned about the nation’s environmental future.
“The announcement by the Trump Administration, that is all it is, an announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement, I honestly believe it has had a mobilising effect, both internationally and domestically as well,” Hart told THE NATION from his office in Washington. “At the international level you are seeing countries’ recommitment, very strongly to the agreement. Countries have made it very clear they will not be renegotiating the agreement by any stretch of the imagination.
“So, it (Trump announcement) has had the effect of mobilising countries to recommit to the Paris agreement and it has shoved China to a leadership role on climate and energy,” added Hart, a key behind-the-scenes United Nations negotiator in Paris two years ago. “On the domestic level you are seeing US State and local governments, the US Private sector pushing ahead to honour the Paris agreement.
“The reality is that the US is second only to China in job creation linked to renewables and in electric vehicles, for example,” added the Barbados envoy who headed the UN Secretary-General climate change negotiating team during the final two years of Ban-Ki Moon’s second term. “The US solar industry employs millions of workers which is about a 25 per cent increase in the number of jobs from say 2015. You are seeing at the domestic level in the US some very strong support.”
Like Hart, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has cited the positive reaction of American cities and states, insisting that despite Trump’s announced pull-out from the pact California’s Governor Jerry Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were taking steps to ensure that the accord, one of the major legacies of Obama, remained alive and well.
“We are convinced that climate policies go hand in hand with a future oriented economic policy,” was the way Merkel put it while lauding the efforts of both Brown and Bloomberg in organising local and state government support and that of the private sector behind the accord.
“I want to warmly welcome this step as it emphasises the support for the climate agreement across large parts of the US regardless of the decision of President Trump to withdraw,” the Germany leader said.
In announcing the pull-out decision in June, President Trump said that “in order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord” and it would “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or really an entirely new transaction” on terms that would be “fair” to US businesses and workers.
For his part, Obama vigorously criticised Trump’s leadership, insisting that the “United States should be at the front of the pact” and not in the rear. “But even in the absence of American leadership, even as this (Trump) Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I am confident that our states, our cities and business will step and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
The Barbados Ambassador who met Obama, Merkel and other leaders of the world’s richest states during the Paris negotiations said that since the signing of the accord, economic growth and significant job creation had become a fact of life in many parts of the world.
“It showed that the momentum around the Paris agreement can’t be slowed, even by the US,” thus raising the hope that the US will reconsider its decision to withdraw,” he said. In any case, “that decision will not take effect” until 2020.
“The global coalition around the Paris Agreement remains strong and the US private sector along with the statement and local governments have embraced the ambition expressed in the Paris agreement,” asserted Hart. “After this year’s devastating hurricane season it’s really hard to imagine that any leaders would ignore the reality of climate change.” (TB)