For some years, many have seen the Republicans as America’s anti-green party, which – at least in historical terms – isn’t entirely fair: even some of the die-hard conservative “villains” in the liberal narrative were soft on renewable energy, such as Richard Nixon’s establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, or George HW Bush’s attempts to control acid rain.
That Republican Party is gone. In a world full of hyperbole, there’s a grim satisfaction in seeing a political leader living up to the near-hysterical complaints of their detractors, and in the last few days, Trump has acted exactly as irresponsibly as the environmental lobby have expected him to. On Thursday 24 October, the President confirmed the US’s eventual exit from the Paris Accord, or Agreement. Although it won’t take effect until 4th November 2020 – the day after the presidential election, which Trump will need to win for the plan to go through – the announcement still sends shockwaves through western political spheres, and solidifies America’s shift to the right on climate issues.
The agreement was created in 2016 as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and currently boasts 195 signatories; it aims to keep the increase in global average temperatures below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels (preferably 1.5˚C). To achieve this, the 20/20/20 targets were developed: an across-the-board 20% cut in CO2 emissions, 20% rise in energy efficiency and boost in renewable energy’s market share to 20%.
On an international level, Trump is largely on his own in saying that the agreement goes too far
The US’s commitments under the agreement include cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% from 2005-2025, and it should be noted that Trump is not alone in his criticism. What is unusual is the nature of his objection: most take issue with the agreement not being binding, or not including penalties for non-compliance. At least on an international level, Trump is largely on his own in saying that the agreement goes too far. According to him, the problem is that the “Paris accord would have been shutting down American producers with excessive regulatory restrictions like you would not believe, while allowing foreign producers to pollute with impunity”, a possible reference to how other countries have different targets to America (such as China’s pledge to have CO2 emissions peak by 2030).
As usual, Trump has failed to consider the greater good. He fails to understand that a bigger country – not only in terms of economic clout but also greenhouse gas emissions – has greater responsibilities on the world stage. He has legitimised the right wing small-mindedness seen across the Atlantic in recent climate thinking, and given how crucial the direction of American policy is to guiding worldwide affairs, the effects have the potential to be disastrous.
Last modified: 27th October 2019