Climate change deal
IN withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, President Donald Trump has in fact walked away from the role of global leadership that the United States has held since the end of the Second World War. Out of the 197 countries that had signed the agreement last year, 147 have already ratified it, meaning the departure of the US from the commitments made at Paris deals a significant blow to cooperative efforts to contain the rise in global temperatures. The saddest part of the whole affair is how the defence of antiquated industries has been invoked by the president at the cost of the welfare of future generations. The latter was reflected symbolically last year when then secretary of state John Kerry, holding his toddler granddaughter in his arms, signed the Paris Agreement. President Trump, on the other hand, stood alone before a group of his admirers, including many who are labelled as ‘climate sceptics’ and serve in his government in important capacities such as director of the Environment Protection Agency.
As the biggest contributor of global carbon emissions, the US has a special responsibility to lead in the area of climate change. Once before, too, it has walked away from an important global arrangement, the Kyoto Protocol, at the last minute under president George Bush Jr. This cycle of entering into and then walking away from international cooperative efforts to mitigate climate change does serious harm to America’s role as a global leader, and leaves a vacuum that is easily filled by rising powers such as China. The fact that only a few days before his disastrous decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, President Trump was in Europe diluting his country’s commitment to the Nato umbrella will also be seen as a dent in America’s leadership role. The silver lining here is that it could take up to four years to actually make a departure from the agreement since there are strong laws governing exit, and by then there might well be a new administration in power more amenable to staying. But the troubling signals coming out of Washington, D.C. have already registered in capitals around the world. Germany is now openly considering less reliance on America, while China is talking of international commitments. Whatever Mr Trump does, it seems the world might yet adapt and carry on with or without his assent.