World warns, cajoles and carefully nudges Trump on climate action
|This week brought some subtle and not-so-subtle pressure on President Donald Trump to think carefully before making good on his campaign promise to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement.
As foreign ministers of the G20—including newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—prepared to meet in Germany on Thursday, the managers of 16 funds with assets totaling more than $2.8 trillion called on the world’s leading economies to phase out “all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020” in order to stave off climatic havoc. “Global investors and insurers are sending a clear message that burning public money through fossil fuel subsidies is not just bad for the planet but bad economic policy, too,” said Shelagh Whitley, head of the climate and energy research program at the Overseas Development Institute.
“Outside the confines of Trump campaign rallies, the offices of a few free-market think tanks and the Tea Party stalwarts in Congress, the broader consensus is that abandoning Paris won’t save trillions of dollars, as Trump promised, but hurt the economy,” concluded an analysis in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, which counted Tillerson’s former employer ExxonMobil, DuPont, Unilever and Monsanto among the powerful proponents of the U.N. pact that Trump may not have expected.
“If the United States does not continue robust federal research and development programs in wind and solar energy, we will cede leadership in these critical technologies to other nations that have demonstrated ongoing high-priority commitments to these technologies, such as China,” the 20 U.S. states in the Governors’ Solar & Wind Coalition told Trump Monday in an open letter. “The nation’s wind and solar energy resources are transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the passage of the Homestead Act over 150 years ago,” they wrote. “Last year, the country’s solar industry employed over 200,000 and added 31,000 new jobs.”
Bloomberg reported that the United Kingdom was quietly lobbying Trump to support the Paris Agreement. “British government representatives stationed in Washington have been talking to officials in the U.S. president’s administration about climate policy, focusing on the jobs and growth that tackling pollution can bring to the U.S.,” the story said.
When Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House on Monday
, he and Trump did not discuss the global climate accord. However, they used “a coded language that suggests that climate action is not off the table,” according to Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who deemed the meeting “a good start.”
At Thursday’s G20 meeting, diplomats reportedly tiptoed around Tillerson with regard to Trump’s plan for the Paris Agreement. “The main reason for this is to avoid an unproductive clash with U.S. on Paris if possible,” said Nick Mabey of London-based E3G.
In what seemed like a veiled message to Trump, Germany’s foreign minister told reporters at the G20 meeting that no country could go it alone to solve the most pressing problems of the day, including climate change, terrorism and mass migration. “It can only be done with cooperation and openness, not by withdrawing into one’s national shell or circling the wagons,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.
It is interesting to note that coverage of the G20 by China’s official Xinhua news agency did not mention the U.S. at all but rather emphasized cooperation with Europe.
“Climate change stands at the center of the world’s shared interests in managing instability,” Ed Davey, former British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, wrote Thursday in an Aljazeera op-ed. “Rich countries must recognize their own self-interest in helping support the developing world with climate mitigation, if only because it manages risks closer to home. Surely President Trump does not want to bear the costs of building a wall along the entire West Coast to keep the people of the Pacific from scrambling to higher ground.”
Republican Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina congressman who advocates “conservative” climate solutions, seemed to make an appeal to President Trump’s ego. “Donald Trump is used to winning things, not walking away like a scalded dog,” Inglis was quoted as saying by the Tribune Washington Bureau. “Leaving a very hard-won international agreement on the table so China can lead the world would be a strange look.”
Even if Trump does make good on his campaign vow to leave the Paris Agreement, the global community remains likely to forge ahead with its pledges to decarbonize, Moody’s Investor Services said in a report released today. “Some aspects of climate policy in the U.S. may be altered or dropped under the new administration,” said Rahul Ghosh, a Moody’s vice president and the report’s co-author. “Nevertheless, we believe that powerful structural forces at play, including robust institutional and private sector momentum, will continue to drive global sustainable and climate agendas regardless of the direction of U.S. federal climate policy.”