Perhaps it was covfefe which broke the camel’s back. After all it was a mere 24 hours after the infamous tweet that President Trump stood up and declared: “We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. They won’t be. They won’t be.” And so ended America’s involvement in the Paris climate accord.
Throughout his election campaign Trump had promised to withdraw from it, joining just Syria and Nicaragua in opposition. Anyone who was surprised he followed through with this particular promise clearly didn’t see his golf buggy trip in Sicily while every other G7 leader walked the 700 yards. This is a man for whom carbon emissions matter not a jot.
So unconcerned is he that instead of supporting the US’s fastest growing industry – which has been creating jobs at a rate of 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy – he chose to ‘represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris’. What’s unfortunate for Trump’s headline statement is that the citizens of Pittsburgh didn’t vote for him in 2016 – they wanted Hillary. And while there was 5,300 people working in iron and steel manufacturing, there were in excess of 13,000 working in the renewable industry in 2016.
Pittsburgh’s mayor was, in his own words, ‘outraged.’ Bill Peduto, a Democrat, told CNN: “We were that city that China is like today where the smoke was so, filled the air so much, that the streetlights would stay on 24 hours.” So he issue his own executive order, pledging the city would continue to follow the guidelines of the accord.
He wasn’t alone. An unnamed group made up of 30 mayors, three governors, over 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses, are currently negotiating with the UN to have its plan to meet the US’s greenhouse gases target accepted alongside the plans of other nations. It’s being coordinated by the former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In fact, what the President has actually achieved is the motivation of even more local and state governments and corporations to commit to the fight against global warming. Robert C. Orr, who was an architect of the 2015 agreement told the New York Times that, “The electric jolt of the last 48 hours is accelerating this process that was already underway. It’s not just the volume of actors that is increasing, it’s that they are starting to coordinate in a much more integral way.”
The decision to defy the president and follow the guidelines is not only ethical, but economically sensible. According to figures from the Department of Energy, there are around three times more people employed in renewables than in the coal industry – 374,000 work in solar and 102,000 in wind power compared to 160,000 in coal.
One of the claims Trump made to back up his decision was that China would be able to build hundreds more coal plants but the US couldn’t. However while Trump wishes to see more plants open, China is taking steps to stop it. Construction of over 103 new coal plants was actually stopped in January, and for the third year in a row the country has reduced its use of coal.
It’s hugely ironic that former US miners are being offered more practical job support from China than the US government. China’s Goldwind company, tasked with building Australia’s largest wind farm, is offering free wind farm skills training to unemployed miners in Wyoming.
China is showing commitment to pursuing a greener energy future. Public unhappiness with air and water quality is driving it. In the first three months of 2017 the ministry of environment issued fines to 5,000 businesses for breaking laws on emissions. That’s a rise of 200%. Last week it opened the world’s largest solar floating farm in Anhui province.
It’s also stepping up into a vacant leadership role. The joint news conference between Li Keqiang and the German chancellor Angela Merkel where the Paris accord was endorsed was a prime example. As The Guardian reports, an EU source said: “The EU-China agreement on the full implementation on international commitments under the Paris agreement becomes even more important.” A new alliance has been forged, as Beijing and Brussels prepare to accelerate joint efforts to reduce emissions.
President Trump was right.
People aren’t laughing at him anymore. They’re now ignoring him.