Yesterday Trump announced that the United States is pulling out of the Paris Agreement. By doing so he joins just two other countries who aren’t part of the agreement. One of those being Nicaragua, who refused to sign because they didn’t think the agreement was strong enough, the other being Syria, a country that is currently going through a civil war.
It’s difficult to understand why the US felt the need to withdraw from the agreement. The targets are set by the countries themselves, and there’s no legal ramifications if a country doesn’t meet their target, but the Trump administration often defies logic.
Soon after he announced his decision, countries, climate activists and businesses released statements criticising the withdrawal and reaffirmed their own commitments to fight climate change. However, the UK decided not to sign a strong joint statement by Germany, France and Italy that condemned Trump’s actions. Alongside this statement, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron agreed that they will “grasp at new initiatives in order to ensure the climate agreement is a success”.
Theresa May later released a statement simply voicing her “disappointment” at Trump’s decision.
It’s hard not to be disappointed by our government’s response. Surely condemning the US’ withdrawal can’t be politically divisive enough to warrant such a weak statement from our Prime Minister? Especially considering that we have such a ‘special relationship’ with the US.
It’s also hard not to be disappointed at the UK for not being on track to reach its carbon targets set out in the UK Climate Change Act, and how the plan to reach those targets, that was due to be published last year still hasn’t be released. It’s disappointing that the UK is set to miss our EU renewable energy targets. It’s disappointing how our government scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It’s disappointing that the government is privatising the investment bank that was meant to be there for low carbon investment. It’s disappointing that our government still supports fracking. I could go on.
It’s clear that the US is no longer a world leader on climate change, but it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to see how the UK remains to be a leader on climate.
In contrast, the EU and China are stepping up, they’re expected to announce to “significantly intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy”. If anything positive has come out of this historical mistake to withdraw from the agreement, it’s the outpour of support for the accord, and the call to speed up action to combat climate change.
I hope that whichever party is in power come June 8th will work to reaffirm the UK’s position as a leader on climate by leading that call for action. Our future depends on it.