On November 6, 2012, Donald J Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. He promised to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programmes.
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
According to Trump, the onerous energy restrictions of the Paris Accord could cost the US $3 trillion in lost GDP, 6.5 million industrial jobs and households would have $7,000 less income. These statistics are staggering. Trump’s source is the National Economic Research Associates. As you would expect, the assumptions behind these numbers have been rigorously contested.
According to Trump, “withdrawal from the agreement represents a reassertion of America’s sovereignty”. And Trump made it clear that he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”. And it was time to make America great again.
Across the world, Trump’s decision has been met with robust defiance and criticism. Speaking in English, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “I do respect this decision but I do think it is an actual mistake both for the US and for our planet… Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make our planet great again.”
In a joint statement, the EU and China termed Trump’s decision a “big mistake”. It is expected that closer cooperation between China and the EU will ramp up research and investments and accelerate transition into a low carbon economy.
Condemnation was swift in the US. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer called Trump’s decision a “devastating failure of historic proportions”.
Hillary Clinton said the decision to exit the Paris Accord was a “historic mistake that leaves American workers behind”.
Former President Barack Obama, who spent years negotiating the landmark agreement, said the Trump administration joined a small band of nations that “reject the future”.
A group of 180 mayors have joined 10 governors in denouncing Trump’s decision. The mayors have vowed to “adopt, honour and uphold commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement”. Over 80 university presidents and 100 businesses have also joined the Climate Mayors.
Michael Bloomberg, former New York Mayor, said, “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed.”
Bloomberg will personally pay the $15 million the United Nations will lose after Trump exits the Paris Accord.
A new green economy beckons. But Trump remains entrenched in the dungeons of fossil fuels. Transition to green energy will create millions of new jobs and lift millions across the globe out of poverty.
The resolve to combat dangerous warming is unflinching. We must make our planet great again!
Dr Alex O Awiti is the director of the East African Institute at Aga Khan University