Donald Trump used to call climate change a joke, but even today he doesn't believe in man-made global warming. The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement seals the turning point in US climate policy.
Greta Thunberg was not yet a celebrity when US President Donald Trump dealt a fierce blow to the fight against climate change more than two years ago. With his announcement of the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement, he triggered horror and fierce criticism. Now he has come a decisive step closer to his goal. The US government officially notified the United Nations on Monday (local time) of its denunciation of its participation in the Paris Agreement.
Trump used to call climate change a "joke". He has now moved away from this. But he still doubts that climate change is man-made. Trump likes to rave about oil production in the USA and praises coal as a raw material for wind turbines and solar energy, on the other hand, he usually has nothing but ridicule. He can thus inspire the party base of the Republicans. Trump's latest slap in the face for the fight against climate change one year before the next US presidential election should therefore be well received by his supporters.
Permanent clinch with California
His predecessor, Barack Obama, had initiated a turn away from coal combustion and towards natural gas, wind and solar energy. Trump reversed that. His government is gradually abolishing or defusing strict environmental regulations. These include measures to combat air and water pollution. Trump also put the regulations for coal-fired power plants to the test. In addition, regulations have been relaxed to ensure that infrastructure projects are environmentally sound.
Trump is at the permanent clinch with California, a pioneer in the fight against climate change. Recently, he announced that the economically strong state would be deprived of a special right for stricter rules against air pollution that had once been issued because of the high smog load in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Trump wants to reverse the Obama government's decision to tighten exhaust regulations for cars.
In addition to California, other states, many cities and companies with ambitious climate targets are opposing Trump's climate policy and are even taking legal action against it. In the state of Texas - known for its oil production - wind power, which has proven to be lucrative, is booming. According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), almost half of all states have joined a U.S. climate alliance and are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, 430 cities want to adhere to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Trump must now be patient
Trump had promised his voters that he would remove the USA from the climate agreement. With the official announcement in June 2017, his government was initially only able to set the process of phasing out in motion. November 4, 2019 was now the first possible date to unilaterally terminate the agreement. Trump will now have to wait another year for the withdrawal to be sealed. The USA will elect a new president one day before the deadline expires. Either Trump wins again, or a democrat - who could theoretically lead the country back to the Paris Agreement after a resignation - will win.
The approval of Congress would not be required for such a turnaround. However, the USA would then need new climate targets - they could not simply return to the old ones. The Paris Accord aims to curb dangerous global warming in the coming decades - and thus to mitigate dramatic consequences such as droughts and a rise in the world's oceans. The USA is currently the only internationally recognised country that would like to be left out of the climate agreement.
Trump is not a friend of international agreements and treaties anyway, considers the Paris Accord unfair. In his view, the climate agreement discriminates against the United States "to the exclusive advantage of other countries". He sees the change of course of his government as indispensable for the economic well-being and competitiveness of the country. Previous governments have punished the country's energy industry and workers with their course, while not making the world a cleaner place, Trump said recently. For him, a strong economy is the panacea - and therefore crucial for an intact environment, although it is not clear how much value he really attaches to the latter.
China, Canada and EU countries now fill the vacuum
The Swedish environmental activist Thunberg went to the White House in September to protest against Trump's policies with fellow campaigners. The 16-year-old has persuaded people all over the world to take to the streets every week for more climate protection. The protest movement Fridays for Future, which she initiated, brought the issue to the attention of the general public.
The termination of the Paris climate agreement comes at a time when support for it is at an all-time high, says Andrew Light of the think tank, World Resources Institute (WRI). Trump admits that with the withdrawal of his country, the USA is losing influence. "This will hurt the Americans," warns Light. Countries like China, Canada and the EU now filled the vacuum.
At climate conferences - the next summit is scheduled to take place in Madrid in a month's time, the USA will be allowed to be present until the final withdrawal. But Washington makes no secret of the disdain for such meetings. At the UN climate summit in New York in September, the US government sent a diplomat to the rank of deputy head of department. Trump only showed up for a few minutes.
Francis Tawiah (Duisburg - Germany)
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