International collaboration and holistic responses are our best way forward in the fight against climate change.
Reaction to President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement came fast and furious, with nations and individuals denouncing the move as dangerously shortsighted.
While ecological and human catastrophe from climate change was highlighted by critics, many also pointed out the economic fallout for the US as the world shifts to a clean-energy economy. They also noted in geopolitical terms that the United States’ traditional role as a global leader has been seriously diminished by Trump’s decision on Thursday.
Former president Barack Obama, who ratified the 2015 Paris Accord alongside nearly 200 other countries, said the move by the Trump administration goes against the “low-carbon future” that is already fully under way, and the United States will ultimately lose over the move.
“The Paris agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale. The nations that remain in the Paris agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” Obama said in a statement.
It is now up to governments of US states and cities “to lead the way and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”, Obama added.
The European Union’s top climate change official said Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord makes it “a sad day for the global community”.
Miguel Arias Canete, the EU’s climate action commissioner, said in a statement the bloc “deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration”.
He said the 2015 agreement will endure and he pledged “the world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership”.
Canete also predicted the EU would seek new alliances from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states, as well as US businesses and individuals supportive of the accord.
“We are on the right side of history,” Canete said.
China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, vowed to continue combating global warming.
“We realise that this is a global consensus agreement and that as a big developing nation we should shoulder our international responsibility,” Premier Li Keqiang said.
The United States’ decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement was a “major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “remains confident that cities, states and businesses within the United States – along with other countries – will continue to demonstrate vision and leadership by working for the low-carbon, resilient economic growth that will create quality jobs and markets for 21st-century prosperity”, Dujarric said.
Meanwhile, Germany, France and Italy issued a joint statement rejecting Trump’s demand that the Paris climate agreement be renegotiated.
“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 the three countries said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who made a televised address in French and English, said Trump had “committed an error for the interests of his country, his people, and a mistake for the future of our planet”.
“I tell you firmly tonight: We will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. There is no way,” said Macron.
Neil Hirst, from Imperial College London, told Al Jazeera Trump’s decision marks the decline of American leadership on the world stage.
“Now we’re seeing the withdrawal of American leadership. Donald Trump is basically tearing up the whole basis of the climate convention and saying, ‘No, I want to take a narrow’ – and misguided I would say – ‘nationalistic view on what we’re going to do,'” Hirst said.
China may be poised to fill the leadership breach. Beijing is already making rapid progress towards its Paris goal of stopping emissions growth by 2030. It has overtaken the US in transitioning to renewable energy, generating one-fifth of its electricity from renewable sources. The US only sources about 13 percent of its electricity from renewables.
Trump also lost the support of a top billionaire business leader over his decision.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, among other companies, wrote on Twitter he is “departing presidential councils”, something he had vowed to do if Trump took this step.
“Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk said.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, another member of Trump’s business councils, wrote on Twitter he was “disappointed” with Trump’s decision on Paris.
“Industry must now lead and not depend on government,” Immelt wrote on Twitter.
Former secretary of state John Kerry said Trump’s decision was “a self-destructive step” that puts America last.
Kerry – who signed the agreement at the UN in 2016 with his granddaughter seated on his lap – called it “an unprecedented forfeiture of American leadership, which will cost us influence, cost us jobs, and invite other countries to walk away from solving humanity’s most existential crisis”.
Kerry described the move as “an ignorant, cynical appeal to an anti-science, special-interest faction far outside the mainstream.
“That is no basis for a decision that will affect billions of lives,” he said in a statement.
Among the scientific community, Britain’s prestigious Royal Society said Trump’s move would hamper US innovation in cleaner technology.
“The future is in newer, cleaner and renewable technologies, not in fossil fuels,” its President, Venki Ramakrishnan, said.
“Such technologies will also help in our fight against air pollution and ensure greater energy security globally. President Trump is not putting America first, he is tethering it to the past.”