Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

The return of Donald Trump to the White House could mark a considerable setback for the fight against climate change, not only in the United States, but everywhere on the planet .

Analysis | Will Trump torpedo global climate action?

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Donald Trump during a campaign rally at Michigan Sports Stars Park in Washington in November 2020, shortly before his election to the presidency.

  • Étienne Leblanc (View profile)Étienne Leblanc

In an article recently published in a renowned scientific journal, scientists suggest creating a new category to qualify hurricanes: category 6. Contrary to what some have jokingly written on social networks, this is not in prediction of a possible return of Donald Trump to the White House.

No. This is a real scientific proposition, which would be necessary to better classify increasingly powerful hurricanes, which exceed the traditional limits of the five categories of the existing Saffir-Simpson scale, a phenomenon largely attributed to climate change. .

Beyond the joke, there remains nothing less than a return of Donald Trump at the head of the world's leading economic power could destroy the architecture on which climate action is based, not only in the United States, but across the planet.

On the domestic level, as my colleague Valérie Boisclair explains well in this article, Donald Trump would arrive in Washington much better prepared than in 2016 to deconstruct everything that was made by his predecessor in the field of energy transition and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The climate program from which Donald Trump intends to draw inspiration to achieve this is already written, tailor-made by the very conservative Heritage Foundation, and soberly called Project 2025. It is neither more nor less a guide to undo, among other things, the entire structure of the fight against climate change and environmental protection in the United States: repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act,the most ambitious climate plan in American history put in place by Joe Biden, which enabled very rapid development of the entire renewable energy sector in the United States; planned dismantling of the powers of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ousting of scientists who guide the institution's public policies; breakdown of the scientific infrastructure of the government apparatus; and full gas in the growth of the fossil fuel industry throughout the territory, on land and at sea. Drill, baby, drill.

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The effects of a possible return of Hurricane Trump at the White House would also be felt well beyond American borders. The consequences would be global.

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Rush hour traffic along the Schuylkill Expressway, Philadelphia

The United States is now the second largest emitter of GHGs in the world, after China. They were the first for a long time, until 2007, in addition to holding the record as the first historical emitter of GHGs since the beginning of the industrial era.

This position as the world's largest polluter has given them a unique role in the fight against climate change over the decades. They are, despite themselves, the obligatory leaders of action to protect the environment. As they are primarily responsible for the problem, they are forced to lead by example if they are serious about solving it.

This unique position that the United States occupies has defined global climate action. When the Americans disengage, when they refuse to take leadership, or worse, when they block possible progress, other countries say to themselves: if the leading polluter does not make an effort, if the richest country in the world does not does not, why would I impose sacrifices on my country to save the environment?

History has shown that every time Americans are disinterested in environmental diplomacy and the fight against climate change, the whole world has suffered the consequences. And when they got involved, the planet benefited.

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United States President George Bush as he signs the pledge for the Earth at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, June 12, 1992.

For example: the famous Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 would not have been as successful without the involvement and role of the administration of George Bush Sr. – a Republican – in the process. Despite some reluctance, he believed in it. It was at this summit that the UN convention on climate change was born. A framework which gave birth to the first international climate treaty in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, and its modern version concluded in 2015, the Paris Agreement.

Even though he expressed some reluctance about this process, George Bush Sr. put a lot of weight into the machine, and the results were striking.

Son Bush, however, did just the opposite a decade later. The Americans signed the Kyoto Protocol, but never ratified it. In 2001, George W. Bush put the final nail in the coffin by withdrawing his country from the treaty for good. As the world's leading polluter withdrew, the agreement lost all its relevance and global GHG emissions exploded in the 2000s.

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Demonstration against President Bush's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on climate in Japan in February 2002.

In 2009, the world met in Copenhagen to replace the outdated Kyoto protocol and sign a new international agreement on the climate.

Expectations were high. The new agreement would, for the first time, require China to also participate in the global effort. With a new progressive president freshly in power in Washington, Barack Obama, all hopes were high.

However, the American president had other concerns, including resolving the great financial crisis that was hitting his country. Visiting Copenhagen for only a few hours, he never pushed for the signing of an ambitious agreement. The expected scenario happened again: seeing the Americans reluctant to set an example, the Germans, the French, the Canadians and all the other industrialized countries folded their bags.

Result: the mountain gave birth to a mouse. The UN climate conference in Copenhagen has gone down in history for the scale of its failure. We learned one thing: the disengagement of the United States, which fueled China's intransigence, set back the fight against climate change by several years.

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US President Barack Obama during a welcoming ceremony hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 2014.

The signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 is the best example of the crucial role that Americans can play in global action to protect the climate. Having learned the lessons of his failed meeting at the Copenhagen summit, Barack Obama pushed hard for a new agreement to be born in Paris. And the first concrete action he took was to meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing, to convince him to get on the climate train with him.

His idea was simple: lead by example and show the world that the world's two largest GHG emitters were going to do their part. The Chinese president even went to Washington a few weeks before the Paris conference, the famous COP21, to reaffirm the China-United States climate pact.

Combined with the diplomatic know-how of COP21 President Laurent Fabius and the architect of the Paris Agreement, Laurence Tubiana, who were able to mitigate major disagreements, President Obama's tenacity paved the way for the very first universal agreement (signed by all countries in the world) on climate. An agreement which set in black and white the warming threshold not to be exceeded – 1.5 degrees Celsius – and which still guides all climate action today.

Without the firmness of the Americans, the Paris Agreement would not be what it is today.

This is not nothing.

But the craze only lasted a few months.

I have a very vivid memory of the freezing shower that fell on the COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016, in Morocco, when the delegates there learned of the unexpected election of Donald Trump. The news had the effect of a bomb on the negotiations. Almost no one had dared to imagine it.

The global momentum that we had seen born in Paris the previous year was shattered all at once.

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US President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, June 1, 2017.

The rest of the story is well known: a few months later, Donald Trump will eject the United States from the Paris Agreement, a move that will undermine the climate negotiations during his years in office.

Faced with the attitude of the Americans, China once again isolated itself, and major GHG emitters such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and Australia took the opportunity to slow down. climate.

A wind of optimism began to blow again on climate diplomacy upon the arrival of Joe Biden at the White House in 2021. The channels of communication between Beijing and Washington have been revived. The president's special envoy on climate change, former Secretary of State John Kerry, has been shuttling between the two countries to forge a new partnership. The duo, which accounts for 40% of global emissions, is cooperating again to strengthen the energy transition.

But above all, these powers are showing the rest of the world that the two biggest polluters on the planet are ready to do their part.

If Donald Trump returns to power, we can expect the 2016 scenario to repeat itself, but with perhaps even greater consequences than the first time for the global fight against climate change.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">If he is re-elected, he will likely withdraw his country from the Paris Agreement again and break the pact with the Chinese. And that would only be a first step.

It would probably also cut off all channels of international climate aid. Funds which normally go to the most vulnerable countries to enable them to carry out their own energy transition, to recover after having suffered a climatic disaster or to adapt to the effects of climate upheavals.

A gesture which, here again, could in some way give permission to other countries to break their financial promises.

This would be a monumental step backwards. Since COP27 in 2022, negotiations have finally unblocked the complex issue of aid to developing countries, an issue that had stagnated climate discussions for decades.

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Environmental activists hold a banner with the slogan Loss and damage, finance now, during a climate strike action in Paris, France France, June 23, 2023.

Without this money, the countries of the South will never have the means to achieve their energy transition and move away from fossil fuels. When these countries are forced to continually dip into their education or health budgets to repair infrastructure damaged by climate disasters, the need to invest in renewable energy and adaptation comes way down the list. priorities. Without this help, major polluters like India, Indonesia and Brazil will be very reluctant to begin their transition away from fossil fuels.

This is why international financial aid is much more than just a whim. It is a fundamental part of protecting the global climate.

The return of Donald Trump could erase years of effort that helped build this climate solidarity.

But there is more. The return of the turbulent Republican candidate would coincide with two phenomena that undermine climate action.

On the one hand, public confidence in the COP process and climate negotiations in general is shaken. The results are seen as thin compared to the scale of the event, and the growing presence of lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry raises doubts about their influence. In addition, Azerbaijan will host the major climate conference next November, making it the third fossil fuel producing state in a row to assume the presidency, after Egypt in 2022 and the United Arab Emirates in 2023. /p>Open in full screen mode

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev and President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan pose during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28 ) at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on December 1, 2023.

On the other hand, the arrival of Trump would coincide with the wave of climate denial which is hitting the entire West. The rise of populist movements in Europe, Latin America and North America, combined with the certain erosion of citizens' purchasing power, is weakening climate policies in all countries. The return of Trump as leader of the world's largest economic power would only accelerate this underlying trend.

Consequently, if we can risk to a politicoclimatic forecast is that if it hits, Hurricane Trump will sweep across all continents.

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