Climate change is likely to be the first issue where US domestic and foreign policy, under the new administration of President-elect Donald Trump, will collide with the international community.
The policies of President Barack Obama had America among the countries leading the way on this issue, culminating in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change accord struck in Paris last year. Obama’s administration’s actions with respect to environmental issues were a mixed bag, but basically consistent with US intentions to proceed with efforts to curb America’s carbon emissions to meet future targets.
The positions that Trump took during the campaign, presumably to be implemented once he takes office in January, appear to go in the opposite direction. Not only did he say he would withdraw America from the pact, he also made promises to the electorate, including to bring coal and steel back, that would put America in a position of non-observance of its previous commitments, and also have it doing serious damage to the global campaign against climate change in general.
The just completed conference on implementation of the Paris agreement in Marrakesh, Morocco, put the world’s dilemma on the subject under the spotlight. The whole world is, of course, aware of America’s previous commitments. It is also, of course, fully aware of Trump’s stated positions relevant to the subject. The representatives of the current US administration at the conference were in the position of being unable to commit the country they represented to anything.
One interesting aspect is that China, the world’s No. 1 polluter – America is second – showed itself at Marrakesh to stand ready to pick up the banner of world leadership on this important issue if the United States, under Trump, wants to walk off the field of play.
Another complicating factor is that state officials in California and other West Coast states have indicated that they intend to proceed with participating in the world effort to take steps to stop or roll back global warming, no matter what position a Trump administration in Washington may take. To drop out of the Paris accord would take four years, but Trump’s government could simply stop carrying out any actions to implement for the four or eight years it is in power.
Part of the confusion over the American position comes from elements in the United States who believe that climate change is inevitable, or cyclical, as opposed to man-made and subject to actions based on that hypothesis. It is also the case that the world – in the strictest sense of the term – is probably capable of withstanding a US policy of dog-paddling on climate change for four or eight years, given the time frame of the phenomenon.
Whatever US policy under Trump turns out to be, it will be a bone of contention for the United States and a Europe led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and an Asia led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Marrakesh conference put the world’s dilemma on climate change under the spotlight
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