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The Climate Battle Heats Up

5 June 2017 12:13 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Macron vs. Trump:


The shock and awe of Mother Nature was at full flow in Sri Lanka, reminding us and our policy-makers the wrath of nature when development and developmental programmes ignore the natural configuration of the earth we inherit. While housing schemes, plantations to highways are a necessity in progress ignoring the ecological realities in such installations can be costly and deadly. Haphazard and changing weather patterns in Sri Lanka are a testament to realities of climate change.
On June 1, US President Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling out of the signature treaty for lowering carbon emissions to manage and mitigate global warming that was agreed on in December 2015 and came into force by September 2016. Popularly known as the ‘Paris Climate Agreement’, is a key treaty emerging from the UN system that has near universal approval and commitment.

President Trump who is embattled in his presidency and bogged down by controversies in a Whitehouse that is somewhat dysfunctional is trying hard to project his commitment to his electoral pledges. Defending his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, his official website claimed that, the Paris Climate deal affects the reduction of six million US Jobs, there is no real scientific validation how these figures were derived.  The announcement triggered a firestorm of media confrontations between pro-Trump groups and climate activists, academics, professional and industry leaders. Governors in states from both coasts are trying to go rogue and undermine Trumps decision. 

80 Mayors of key American cities are revolting against the President. It seems, as if Trump has just triggered the first wave of a new civil war within the United States.
Many American liberal and left leaning academics pointed out that the repercussions of this pull out are far reaching and it essentially paves the way to an unprecedented decline of American influence in global affairs.  The pursuit of the US leadership remains a primary foreign policy responsibility of any American President; Trump’s decision may have set a chain reaction in motion denting that capability.  Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs response to the pull out was quite jarring.  In an opinion piece to New York daily News, he claimed, “Today is the day that America’s global leadership ends”.  Joseph Stiglitz claims that Trump is building a ‘rogue state’ that takes the country back in history as he defies science and progress.

 

  • Paris Climate deal affects the reduction of six million US Jobs – Trump

  • Pull out decision creates chaos among professionals, intellectuals

  • It is morally wrong for anyone to leave the climate agreement – Modi

  • Climate agreement is a guarantor of good governance

  • Analysts warn Trump’s ME visit may create possible tension with European allies 

  • Macron, the new super hero of Europe


Indian Premier Narendra Modi claimed that it is morally wrong for anyone to leave the climate agreement; condemnation of the American move was near universal with multiple leaders of the World and UN bodies coming out to criticize and pledge their commitment to the agreement.  Even if it does not represent a decline of American leadership, it represents a beginning of a form of American isolationism which may not serve the American people or its industries well.

The argument that reducing reliance on fossil fuel is harming jobs is ill-conceived. The counter argument is that the green and clean energy industry will also create a massive employment stimulus, thus even in countries such as Sri Lanka solar energy production, wind turbines and promoting the idea of clean energy among public are important for achieving certain sustainable development goals. Trump’s decision to pull out of the ‘Paris Climate’ deal also came on the back of a letter sent to him by 22 Republican Senators to do so. It was later revealed that these Senators had their election campaigns bank- rolled by the energy industry, where the cumulative value of donations to their campaigns were around $10 billion in the last three election cycles.


Thus Trump’s decision also follows some universal fears in global politics that, domestic political elites are increasingly subjected to pressures by the energy industry, agricultural industry, big pharmaceuticals and defence industry lobby groups and increasingly political campaigns are becoming corporate adventures. Thus Trump’s pull out may not help the masses but to boost the financial strength of some billionaires who funded him and his party. The climate agreement itself is a guarantor of good governance, where States are pressurised to diversify the energy industry and bring in multiple investors and innovators to level the field.

Even prior to Trump’s presidency and towards the later stages of Obama Presidency, a common critique was that President Obama with his foreign policy was significantly weakening American leadership and its influence in global affairs. With Trump in office, and his first foreign tour to the Middle East and Europe, and his interactions with European leaders and NATO many American analysts warned of possible tensions with European allies and the potential of the Europeans re-strengthening their relationship and standing up to the United States. 

25 years ago, the acceleration of the European Union integration came in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, as Europeans though happy with the communist giant’s fall, were equally worried in living in the shadow of American dominance. While being touted as being weak and suffering from fragmentation ever since the financial crisis of 2007, the Europeans are finding new hope to unite to cope with an unpredictable and impulsive US leadership. The best signs for Europe recently were the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election. 

Macron, according to some analysts, is punching above his weight but for many he is the new super hero of European politics within the span of two days he took on the two most powerful leaders on Earth.

On May 30 at Versailles, he took on the Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference that featured both leaders. A master of statecraft, President Putin did not see this coming where Macron directly accused Russian state media outlets for spreading fake news during his presidential campaign while having Putin by his side as he spoke.

On June 1; one hour into the announcement of the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement by Trump, Macron appeared on a video and reiterated his commitment to the climate deal, encouraged Americans in all walks of life to come to France to continue their work on climate change related activities and ended his video broadcast with a punch line ‘to make the planet great again’. Macron projected France as a sanctuary and open society while Trump is hell-bent on walling America and he put the global agenda first while Trump kept on tweeting about ‘Making America Great Again’. Thus a political rookie has managed to land some heavy punches on two leaders who equally have made many European leaders nervous by their actions.
The divisiveness of American politics is rapidly increasing and polarization between the conservative and liberal political camps is widening. American recession in global leadership convinced many that the geo-political West is also being dragged down by the American decline. Yet Merkel and Macron have managed to rise to the challenge, with Macron in power, the French-Deutsch friendship will grow and is already providing hope of a resuscitation of the region and its geo-political relevance. While Trump is reaping the repercussions of imperial over stretch and domestic under reach, it seems the world is not ready to give up hope on a governance agenda that has some critical global issues at hand and the united effort to save the climate deal is the first of many initiatives to reboot global governance.


The writer is the Director, Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS)

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