A few words on Trump and Paris

We’ve noticed lately that the news has been pretty heavy with predictions and dire warnings in response to US President Donald Trump’s expected but nonetheless disappointing announcement that he will formally withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement.

We get it – it’s not a discussion that’s easy to chew on or digest, particularly when you’re determined to celebrate wins around building a sustainable future, like we are! So to help you out, we’ve pulled together a wrap up of some coverage that we believe paints a picture that’s not as unsavoury as it first may seem. In fact, it points to a growing global tide of opinion that is swinging in the opposite direction, leaving Trump’s Paris pull out, not us, on the wrong side of climate history.

What is the news saying?

The first important point to make is that President Trump’s decision doesn’t mean the end of the world as we know it. In fact, Politico sees it as more of symbolic gesture in the grand scheme of things. In practical terms, Trump has chosen the most cumbersome approach amongst several available options, meaning it could be up to four more years before the US is officially ‘out’ of the Paris Agreement. Importantly, he has not yet decided to leave the UNFCC and abandon the Kyoto Protocol. From a US domestic perspective, the more damaging decision being made is whether President Trump will wind back Obama’s Clean Energy Plan, which regulates emissions from power generators.

Internationally, the US announcement was met with disappointment and condemnation. The Washington Post reminded us that the G7 hasn’t looked favourably on the move and that China, India and the EU have definitively responded by reaffirming their commitment to the deal. Instead of impeding global progress on addressing climate change as some have feared, there has already been talk from some countries about implementing trade sanctions or a carbon tax on US imports.  Increasingly, the US risks becoming seen as an outlier in the global community rather than a leader.

Internally, the United States response has been far from unanimous in supporting Trump’s decision. At the state level, momentum continues to build following the Paris Agreement for a strong and consistent approach to dealing with climate change. In response to Trump’s announcement, a number of individual states and cities have reaffirmed their commitment to the Agreement, while others have reacted with outright rebellion, forming coalitions and even going so far as to sign deals with other countries in support of a low carbon future. It  signals a shift from federal to state and local governments who are taking responsibility for spearheading climate solutions.

But it’s not just political pushback that we’ve seen. The business community has also voiced strong opposition to Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement. And we’re not just talking about Ben & Jerry’s:  360+ companies met in Marrakech last November and wrote a letter urging Trump to not pull out of the Agreement. Signatories included industry heavyweights such as Unilever, IKEA, Nike and Mars, amongst many others. The decision also proved to be the last straw for Elon Musk, who having faced increasing criticism for remaining on advisory councils for the President in the hope he could be a positive influence, promptly resigned from these roles immediately following the announcement. In another telling development, investors in at Exxon, the largest oil and gas company in the world, voted in defiance of Trump’s stance to force the company to come clean on how much climate change will affect the future of this business.

These rumblings at the business level are also being reflected in the minds of voters, with less than a third of Americans agreeing with the decision. Over half believe that withdrawal will actually hurt the American economy. And Australians agree – recent polls show over half our population believe that global warming is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests. Prime Minister Turnbull responded to the US announcement by reaffirming the Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement over the long term.

So, wrapping up: if international news is anything to go by, all is not lost! Rather, the US President’s decision is proving completely out of sync with American business, the American people, and overwhelming global consensus around addressing climate change. The best thing that we can do here in Australia is to keep on, keeping on and stick with the plan to encourage our government to do our bit in the global move  towards net zero emissions by 2050. It seems this whole affair is more of an unwelcomed distraction, with the overall outcome likely to be bad for the US and good for China. Meanwhile, global cooperation to address climate change continues to grow.