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Saturday 16 December 2017

Putin refuses to condemn Trump for pulling out of Paris climate deal, tells world: 'Don't worry, be happy'

Vladimir Putin addresses the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia (Tass News Agency/AP)
Vladimir Putin addresses the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia (Tass News Agency/AP)

Clark Mindock

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he thinks there was still time to reach an agreement on the landmark 2015 Paris climate change deal despite Donald Trump saying saying the US would quit the pact.

“Don't worry, be happy,” Mr Putin told an economic forum in St Petersburg.

Mr Putin also said that he wouldn't judge Mr Trump's decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord, but that America would have had a better bargaining position to change the accord if the country had stayed in the deal. He said that the best course of action is to create circumstances where world leaders can work together to redefine the accord, and that the world needs to take the Paris agreement as a starting point and work from there.

Mr Trump sparked international outrage when he announced that the US would withdraw from the deal, which his predecessor's administration had made a priority and played a lead role in creating. World leaders on six continents condemned the decision, as did several US governors and mayors. The US president, saying that the deal hurts American workers and jobs, announced that he would work to tailor a better deal with the world.

But many foreign leaders involved said that wasn't an option.

"We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies," the leaders of France, Italy, and Germany said in a rare joint statement.

The Paris climate agreement, reached in December 2015, is an international agreement that seeks to keep the global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and below 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible. In order to help developing countries that would be hit hardest by a switch from cheaper fossil fuels that spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, advanced nations like the United States agreed to create a $100 billion fund to provide financial aid. Originally, 196 countries committed to the climate deal.

The United States now joins the likes of Syria and Nicaragua as the only three countries in the world to not be in the deal.

Those two countries, both of which emit a fraction of the greenhouse gases that the US does, didn't opt out of the deal simply because they don't believe in the dangers of climate change, either. Nicaragua refused to sign because of the voluntary nature of the agreement, with Nicaragua's climate negotiator at the time saying, "We're not going to submit because voluntary responsibility is a path to failure. We don't want to be an accomplice to taking the world to 3 to 4 degrees and the death and destruction that represents." Syria faced a myriad of challenges: The deal reached consensus at a time when fighting in the civil war there had reached a fever pitch, and many Syrian officials were under sanctions from western nations that limited their ability to travel to negotiations unless they were held in friendly countries like Russia.

During the wide ranging press conference in St. Petersburg, Mr Putin also discussed allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and his view that Russia and the Nato military alliance need to cooperate to fight terrorism.

Mr Putin said that he views Nato as an instrument of American foreign policy, and that he has been concerned by Nato military infrastructure edging closer to Russian borders. Nato, which was established as a check on the Soviet Union, has been moving military assets into Baltic states and Poland following Russia's annexation of Ukraine, which many countries in Europe viewed as an act of aggression. Mr Trump recently reaffirmed the US's commitment to the military alliance during his first foreign trip abroad as president after once saying the organisation was "obsolete." The US president told Nato allies that they need to start paying a fairer share of the costs of the alliance, but that he no longer thinks Nato is obsolete.

As for allegations that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton and prop up the candidate who once extolled sympathetic views on Nato, Mr Putin said the allegations contain only assumptions, nothing concrete.

"I think this is useless and harmful gossip that should be stopped," he said.

The US government is investigating the extent to which the Russian government may have worked to influence the US election through cyber attacks, and has already placed sanctions on the Kremlin for that role. Investigators are also reportedly looking into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and whether any campaign officials were complicit in colluding with the 2016 election meddling.

Independent News Service

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