Monday 21 August 2017

America is acting like a rogue state, so we must all stand up for what's right

Protesters outside the White House. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP
Protesters outside the White House. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP
Eamon Ryan

Eamon Ryan

It was no surprise when Donald Trump walked out into the Rose Garden to announce to the waiting world he was about to drop out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

We knew what was coming. We realised some months ago that our worst environmental nightmare had arrived. So why then did the whole event leave me feeling so physically sick and scared to my core?

It must have been the sight of his Breitbart mentors lined up in front of him, all satisfied as he threw his bomb out to the world. Their mission seemingly accomplished, to tear apart the diplomatic efforts of the last 25 years to bring every country together to stop our planet going on fire.

The acceptance of such reckless destruction was frightening, but what made it worse was the banal indifference to the need to present any real arguments that could back up their case. There was no attempt to deny climate science. Even Mr Trump realises that is no longer credible

Instead, the only real argument was that the Paris agreement on its own would only ensure modest global temperature reductions. That is true - by design. It is meant to be the beginning, not the end, of our ambitions. Its strength is in the legal mechanisms that require a ratcheting up of plans, while allowing each country to work out what is the best way for themselves to go forward.

The agreement was designed that way because the Americans demanded it. They wouldn't go for the 'top down' approach that was agreed in Kyoto 20 years previously, and now they have bowed out from the 'bottom up' incremental approach they said was the better way to go.

Everything else Mr Trump said seemed to me to be either an outright lie or an obscene attempt to pull the wool over his own voters' eyes. He boasted about having just sold $350bn (€310bn) of weapons to Saudi Arabia and in the next breath said America would never contribute the $3bn (€2.6bn) it promised to give to the poorest countries in the world, as part of its contribution to a green climate fund.

His military has made it clear that climate change is the greatest security threat it faces. The $350bn in arms sold to the Middle East is going to come back to haunt it as the region warms up and dries out and real turmoil then reigns. Some war on terror that will be.

He was all talk about saving mining and manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Detroit, but his own business community has been frantically telling him that more jobs are coming from solar power, electric vehicles and green building industries, where all the real growth is taking place.

The lies just kept coming. "It is other countries that are the major polluters" when in truth the US, with 4pc of the world's population, has been responsible for some 33pc of the greenhouse gas emissions that have gone up into the atmosphere.

"The US is the world leader in environmental protection," when in reality he has just done a 'slash and burn' job to his own EPA.

What do we do in response to such illogical and insane provocation? We can all see now why Angela Merkel came away from the G7 meeting with Mr Trump last week and said the US can no longer be trusted.

The Paris agreement is going to stand because the other big economies in Europe, China and India have everything to gain from leading the new clean industrial revolution that is starting to take place.

We will need to get America back on board once Mr Trump is gone because without that it is unlikely we will be able to stop runaway climate change in time. American cities and states are also committing to fight their own administration and stick to the low carbon transition no matter what he does. It was heartening to see Californian Governor Jerry Brown stating: "Trump is Awol but California is on the field, ready for battle."

We have to keep the door open and hope the destruction Mr Trump is unleashing will not permanently undermine his own country.

We should not, however, stay quiet and do nothing in the meantime or try to appease him. I think we need to apply some sanctions on America. Not yet on trade, which would only hurt our own people as much as theirs. Far better to start questioning the role America has traditionally held within international diplomacy, as a way of showing his disregard for international co-operation cannot be ignored.

For years, the Americans have led the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agencies (IEA) where Western governments shared their best policy ideas.

How can that possibly continue when the US is now in effect acting as a rogue state? We need to work with our European colleagues to stick with the development of a new low carbon international order. The so-called leader of the free world is now in disgrace. It is time for the rest of the world to stand up for what is peaceful and right, with all our collective might. That is the only way to keep the sickening fear Mr Trump brings at bay.

Eamon Ryan is leader of the Green Party

Irish Independent

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