Last week I was in the Scottish highlands and beyond the reach of the internet. I don’t know what covfefe is. But I did hear that President Trump has announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He can’t actually do that just yet, because the agreement has to be in effect for three years before a country can formally exit the process, and that in itself takes a year. By that time Trump is unlikely to be president. We shall see.
We knew Trump was going to bin Obama’s climate legacy. He had promised to do so and his supporters love him for it. But he can’t end climate action in the US, let alone the Paris Agreement, and he will find himself in an increasingly isolated place as much of the country gets on with decarbonisation without him.
There have been strong words from global leaders about Trump’s decision. I hope there will be more, that this becomes a recurring theme that dogs Trump’s international affairs until he is forced to change his mind. I also hope there will be global support for climate change action in America, and a sense of solidarity with the many millions of people who think he’s made a terrible call.
As I’ve written about recently, several US states have ambitious climate plans, including Hawaii, Vermont and California. City mayors are leading the charge, and a number of cities have 100% renewable energy plans, such as San Francisco, Salt Lake City or Boulder. Business leaders get it. The military gets it. All of them will be planning to cut emissions regardless of what the Trump administration does.
In fact, Trump’s great leap backwards may prove a radicalising force, inspiring others to up their game and move further and faster than before.
As the Yale Program on Climate Communication has shown, those who support US participation in the Paris Agreement are in the majority in every single state. Only 13% of voters are in favour of pulling out.
The international climate movement is bigger than Trump. The US climate movement is bigger than Trump. So we might have to fight climate change without his administration, and without the Republican party, but the world will not be fighting climate change without America.