President Donald Trump, in a move that has surprised many, has chosen to delay a crucial climate-based decision until after the G7 summit at the end of May.
During his presidential campaign, Trump made repeated promises to either remove the US from, or renegotiate the US’s position within the Paris Climate Accord. That he now appears unwilling to commit himself either way on this promise may indicate differences of opinion, and climate-based uncertainty within a previously anti-green administration.
The Paris Climate Accord
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The Paris Climate Accord is a deal struck by nearly 200 nations in 2015 to cut carbon emissions. The aim was to hold participating nations to carbon footprint targets, in order to tackle anthropocentric climate change. The deal, struck under the Obama administration, was not ratified by the Senate due to concerted opposition by Republican factions. As such, it is not a legally binding treaty within the US, and Trump could withdraw the nation from the accord without any legal ramifications. Many fear, however, that the global ramifications of such a tactic would be huge.
The US is currently the second-largest emitter of C02 in the world. We follow behind China, and are just ahead of Russia. China is currently undertaking a rigorous government-pushed drive to reduce its own emissions drastically, and is fast becoming a world leader in renewable sources of energy. Trump’s presidential campaign appeared to promise the opposite for the US. Trump promised to actively promote fossil fuels (ostensibly with the aim of bolstering American business), and made several statements that appeared to deny the validity of anthropocentric climate change. There were huge concerns from the scientific community that this could not only hasten serious planetary decline on its own, but could also lead other nations down a similar path. Prior to Brexit, for example, the UK was promoting renewable energy to its people — offering subsidies on solar panels, and making it easy for households to switch to renewable providers. However, in the wake of both Brexit and Trump’s election, a cautious UK has been taking its lead on this issue from the US (perhaps in the hope of securing the kind of trade deals they will no longer enjoy with Europe). Despite calls from her people her to denounce Trump on the issue, British Prime Minister Theresa May remains silent over Trump’s stance on climate change, and many fear that she will lead her own nation down the path Trump chooses.
So far, so bleak from an environmental perspective. Curiously, however, Trump appears to be wavering over the Paris Climate Accord. His campaign stance was reasonably unambiguous — he was going to promote fossil fuels, and take the country out of any deal that imposed restrictions on American emissions. Now, however, he says that he will wait until after the G7 summit of world leaders taking place in Italy at the end of May. This has led to a febrile atmosphere, in which companies, scientists and nations are desperately petitioning the president one way or another. Crucially, several prominent American businesses — including Apple and Tiffany’s — are urging the president to ratify the agreement. Conservative campaigners, however, are putting similar pressure upon Trump to withdraw.
Trump is remaining uncharacteristically tight-lipped on the issue, but his refusal to deliver a verdict one way or another until after G7 indicates that he may well be wavering. Most believe that he will ultimately withdraw or downgrade American involvement in the accord, but the topic does appear to be causing strife within Trump’s inner circle.
Some media sources are pointing to divisions within the president’s own team over this particular issue. Ivanka Trump is said to be in favor of the US doing more to cut emissions, as are Jared Kushner and Rex Tillerson. Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt, however, consider it bad for American business. After a series of high-profile hiring and firing, and with the Trump administration having a shockingly high staff turnover rate, the last thing that this president needs is discord right at the heart of his cabinet and his family. Quite what Trump will decide remains to be seen, but the fact that he is delaying his decision could forecast an openness to persuasion which did not seem possible during the election. At the very least, this is likely to become another source of contention between Trump and those closest to him.