Last spring, when President Donald Trump was considering withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate accords, other nations’ leaders pleaded with him to reconsider, appealing to a sense of responsibility and prudence.
He was reminded of the influence America has on other nations, and warned if we withdrew others would likely as well.
In June, he formally announced our withdrawal.
This week at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Trump got what he should have expected: mocking, chastising, and exclusion.
At a French pavilion, politicians from all over the world posed for pictures beside a “Make Our Planet Great Again” sign; climate activists openly criticized the president in panel conversations; Mexico and Canada formalized an agreement to work directly with U.S. governors serious about passing legislation cutting carbon emissions–even if it means circumventing the president.
After anxiety over what the United States might do to try and disrupt the proceedings, many walked away relieved the Trump administration made no significant efforts to do anything other than hold a public event advocating clean coal.
At the conference, promoting state and regional climate change efforts, was California Governor Jerry Brown (D).
About the anticipation of something disruptive, he quipped:
“They haven’t thrown a bomb yet, have they? So that’s good.”
Brown was not the only U.S. delegate present.
Many showed up to demonstrate to the world that Trump does not speak for them.
Canadian and Mexican leaders agreed to discuss clean-energy initiatives with 14 states and Puerto Rico that pledged to oblige their share of the U.S.’s commitment to the Paris accord.
Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, at a meeting with Gov. Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), said:
“[The agreement is a] great example that we’re all in this together.”
Gov. Inslee said:
“This strategy is working. Not one single country has expressed one single word of doubt or lack of confidence in the Paris agreement just because Donald Trump is still a climate denier.”
Laurence Tubiana, France’s former ambassador for climate change negotiations, said:
“The United States is really isolated from the process point of view. Nobody’s backtracking. And even the discussion, the negotiation is going well — with its normal difficulties — it’s going well.”
European commissioner for climate action and energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, expressed optimism:
“America is still in. Our perception is, fortunately, there is real action on the ground, and we’re very pleased. We’re now landing in the political level, and we’ll see what the positions of the United States are.”
Trump’s energy adviser, Dave Banks, who led the clean coal panel, told Politico U.S. policy on fossil fuels does not speak for what the American diplomats were negotiating privately.
“There’s a reason we didn’t talk about negotiations, because negotiations are over there. Over here is where you can have more general policy discussions.”
Banks insisted his panel wasn’t intended to promote U.S. fossil fuels exports; it was to initiate a practical discussion.
“We’re going to promote coal? No, that’s a policy discussion. It’s not a negotiation. We’re not selling coal or gas or nuclear power.”
Delegates’ words and actions at this summit reinforce the argument that neither the United States nor the rest of the world will be restrained from mitigating the existential threat climate change poses to humanity.
We don’t need Donald Trump to get it done.
As Gov. Inslee told an audience:
“The next president of the United States is not going to be a climate denier.”
Image credit: ncronline.org