Instead of making the earth great again, US President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. His decision has not only imperiled the attempts to roll back the consequences of pollution on the planet, but it is also a direct threat to make the earth safe for future generations.
In ostensibly seeking to secure jobs and fair trade for the US, Mr. Trump has essentially put at risk the safety, security and the viability of human life on earth. It was to fulfill his campaign promise to put America first and make it great again at the expense of the Accord. His actions could have unintended consequences for the United States.
In announcing his decision two Thursdays ago, Mr. Trump said the United States would no longer be a laughing stock. The truth is, the world is not laughing at the US but at Mr. Trump and his administration, which seem to have an extremely narrow view of climate change and its effects on the earth.
Following Mr. Trump’s decision, the European Union (EU) leaders have closed ranks, and an unexpected alliance between China and Europe has filled the gap created by the US’s new isolationist policies. The EU leaders have boldly pledged to forge ahead with the agreement, despite Trump’s reversal of it.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s response best summed up the global mood when he said “Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility to make our planet great again.”
Indeed, Mr. Trump’s actions have actually empowered some of America’s partners and rivals. He has given countries like China more leverage over global affairs by allowing it to forge closer ties with many nations, including the Caribbean, which is said to be in America’s backyard. Mr. Trump’s actions have also threatened the already scarce resources in the world, thus bolstering the possibility of conflict and war.
In December 2015, 196 countries met in Paris and signed the Accord to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the runaway climate change that would occur should temperatures spiral to 2 degrees Celsius or more above the pre-industrial era.
The UN World Meteorological Organization has stated that in a worst-case scenario, the US withdrawal could now add 0.3 degrees Celsius to global temperatures by the end of the century. Though a relatively small actor in global politics, Guyana has one of the lowest per capita carbon emissions rate in the hemisphere, yet we have signed the Accord.
While President Trump’s decision to extricate the US from the Paris Agreement may appear to have dealt a blow to the Accord, the reality is, it could turn out to have the opposite consequences.
In the last week, Mr. Trump has inadvertently galvanized international support on the issue of global warming and unleashed a new and unimagined collective determination to save the planet. His actions have created a backlash even at home. Many governors and big businesses in the US have abandoned the federal government’s inept policy on the agreement. They have promised to continue their work on reducing their country’s enormous carbon footprint, as they look for economic advantage in developing new, cleaner energy technology.
Many EU leaders have stated that they will bypass Mr. Trump and work directly with state governors and US business leaders.
President Trump’s decision has energized the issue of climate change the world over, in a way that might not have been possible otherwise – which is why we in Guyana must be mindful of the fact that in spite of Trump’s actions, the world is changing. If we fail to wean ourselves off fossil fuels or take urgent and effective steps to diversify our economy, or find ways to harness the unique creativity of our people, we will not prosper.
While it is possible to take comfort in the recent discovery of oil, we cannot depend solely on oil to be our economic salvation. As substantial as our oil resources may turn out to be, we should not rest on our laurels. It is time to face the fact that the world has already begun to change. And for the better.
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