Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark™, comments on the decision by US President Donald Trump to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Pact.
On June 1 2017, President Trump confirmed that he was pulling the US out of Paris Climate Accord, and agreement which for the time has brought together almost every nation in the world in a commitment to keep global warming to well below 2C this century. President Trump’s retrograde and backward-looking decision has generated worldwide and US condemnation.
Climate change is the biggest threat of our time and its effects are being felt around the world. The transformation to a zero carbon way of living is challenging and, as evidenced in this announcement, it is not always smooth. To make this transition we need strong and forward-thinking leadership at all levels of society, through government to individuals.
The US has a central role to play in driving change, not least because it is the second biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions with 20% of global annual emissions. There is no doubt that President Trump’s decision to set in motion a US exit has the potential to put the Paris accord in jeopardy.
History will determine how far-reaching this decision will be and also whether this action will prove to be a seminal moment in the global response to climate change. On face value it is a disaster, ignoring the need for international commitment and collaborative action. It is easy to envisage other countries following the example set by President Trump, leaving the Paris Agreement – joining Syria and Nicaragua (the only other countries outside the Paris agreement) and cutting domestic policies that protect the environment, society and future generations.
However, the journey to our sustainable future is so well-advanced now that there's growing evidence we're past the tipping point. The science, economics and public sentiment have converged, the debate has moved on and we are witnessing the roll out of life-saving technologies and behaviours.
The US and global response from June 1 suggests that our transition to zero carbon is sufficiently mature to withstand the after-shocks of the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement. US states and cities lit up their town halls green in solidarity and committed to fulfil the US climate change commitments.
As the cost of renewables reach all-time lows and the Trump administration looks to re-boot the US coal industry, China and India continue their heavy and strategic investment in clean energy, decommissioning coal power stations, cancelling new ones and counting the potential cost of stranded fossil fuel assets.
US and global corporations such as Walmart, Google and Apple have publicly criticised President Trump’s decision and reaffirmed their continued drive to reduce carbon emissions and deliver sustainable products and services.
Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, and Robert Iger, the chairman and CEO of Disney, both resigned their advisory posts to the Trump administration in reaction to the decision. Just like millions of people worldwide, they found that their position on climate change was totally at odds with that of President Trump.
As a result, this retrograde decision may prove to be a powerful catalyst for good. It has elevated climate change, brought more people into the debate, focused their attention and encouraged stronger commitments to fill the void left by the US administration, as evidenced by the EU's and China's new alliance on climate change.
This is the moment when the ownership of the Paris Agreement goes beyond governments and extends to corporations, communities and their citizens.