Angry Europe vows to defend climate pact after Trump pullout

US President Donald J. Trump announcing that the US is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. Washington, 1 June. [Molly Riley/EPA]

European leaders reacted with anger and defiance after President Donald Trump yesterday (1 June) announced the United States, the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, was quitting the 2015 Paris Agreement.

With France’s Emmanuel Macron taking the lead, they lashed Trump’s decision as misguided and vowed to defend an accord they portrayed as crucial for the planet’s future.

“We’re getting out,” Trump said at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden under sunny skies on a warm June day.

Trump tapped into the “America First” message he used when he was elected president last year, saying, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Trump said the Paris deal imposed “draconian” burdens costing millions of US jobs and billions of dollars.

The pact was “very unfair” to the United States and beneficial to other major polluters like China and India, the president claimed.

“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be,” Trump said.

“The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance,” Trump added.

But he added that the United States would begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Agreement or “a new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers”.

With Trump’s action, the United States will walk away from nearly every nation in the world on one of the pressing global issues of the 21st century. The pullout will align the United States with Syria and Nicaragua as the world’s only non-participants in the accord.

Exceptional step

In an exceptional step, continental Europe’s three biggest economies – Germany, France and Italy – issued a joint statement to criticise Trump’s move and say no to his offer of renegotiating the deal.

“We note the United States’ decision with regret,” they said, describing the carbon-curbing accord as “a vital tool for our planet, our societies and our economies.”

“We are firmly convinced that the agreement cannot be renegotiated,” they added, referring to part of the Trump announcement which said Washington was open to negotiating a new agreement.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker lashed Trump’s decision as “seriously wrong”.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete also pledged continued “global leadership” on climate change.

“The Paris Agreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change,” he said in a statement.

“Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable.”

‘No renegotiation’

In a TV broadcast made both in French and English, French President Emmanuel Macron said he believed that Trump had made a historic mistake, and invited frustrated US climate scientists and entrepreneurs to come and work in France.

“They will find in France a second homeland,” he said. “I call on them, come and work here with us, to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment.”

“I tell you firmly tonight: We will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. There is no way,” said Macron, who took office less than a month ago.

And cheekily adapting the nationalist slogan used by Trump on his election campaign trail, Macron urged defenders of the climate to “make our planet great again”.

‘Crime against humanity’

Anticipating the decision of the new US president, French ecology minister Nicolas Hulot said before the White House announcement that if one day the notion of ecocide would be recognised by international law, “Donald Trump will be guilty of crimes against humanity.”

Paris city hall meanwhile said it would illuminate its building in green on Thursday “in a sign of disapproval” of Trump’s announcement and to recall the determination of cities around the world to fight climate change.

In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “regret” at the decision, and called for a continuation of “climate policies which preserve our world”.

Seven Social Democratic Party ministers in her coalition government said the United States “is harming itself, we Europeans and all the people of the world”.

In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Trump that the climate accord was a safety net for future generations, Downing Street said.

“The Paris Agreement provides the right global framework for protecting the prosperity and security of future generations, while keeping energy affordable and secure for our citizens and businesses,” May told Trump by phone, it said in a statement.

Green anger

Among environmental groups, Climate Action Network said the withdrawal “signals that the Trump Administration is in total discord with both reality and the rest of the world”.

“Unfortunately, the first to suffer from this injudicious decision is the American people,” the group, an alliance of climate activists, said.

“This action is totally contrary to their best interests: their health, security, food supply, jobs and future.”

Friends of the Earth International said “pulling out of the Paris Agreement would make the US a rogue state on climate change. The rest of the world cannot let the US drag it down”.

Oxfam France branded the decision as “shameful and irresponsible, scorning people and world peace”.

Among the scientific community, Britain’s prestigious Royal Society said Trump’s decision would hamper US innovation in cleaner technology.

“The future is in newer, cleaner and renewable technologies, not in fossil fuels,” said the society’s president, Venki Ramakrishnan.

“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.”

The other America

Former Secretary of State John Kerry reacted furiously at the damage he feels the US pullout will do to the planet and future generations – but also at the blow to American prestige.

Kerry was on hand on 12 December 2015 to shepherd the hotly debated text through to agreement in Paris at an emotional ceremony. And in April 2016 he sat with his granddaughter on his knee at the United Nations to join every other country in the world save Syria and Nicaragua in signing on.

“This is an unprecedented forfeiture of American leadership,” Kerry declared in a statement from his office at the Carnegie Endowment.

Trump’s decision, he warned, “will cost us influence, cost us jobs, and invite other countries to walk away from solving humanity’s most existential crisis.

“It isolates the United States after we had united the world,” he added.

Observers quickly saw the fingerprints of Bannon – a self-declared “economic nationalist” – on Trump’s speech tearing up the accord.

Background

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe