Harald Winkler, Energy Research Centre, UCT, 2 June, 2017
On 1 June 2017, Donald Trump (DT) announced that his administration was withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement. The world’s largest economy is taking no responsibility for US historical emissions, and instead reneging on what his country had previously agreed. Trump’s exit is a deeply immoral, reprehensible act.
The speech on the Rose Garden lawns is full of the illogical statement one has come to expect from DT (see good analysis in The Guardian). It continues to astound how unethical and irrational a man holds such powerful office.
DT is entirely mistaken in the belief that pulling out of the Paris Agreement will “make America great again”. It will do quite the opposite. The trend away from fossil fuels is irreversible. No matter what campaign promises were made to rust belt states, the decline will continue. Jobs will continue to grow, not in the coal industry, but in the sustainable energy industries: Renewables and energy efficiency employ more than 3 million people in the US, compared to some 50 000 in the coal industry. Rather than helping coal communities make a transition into a low-carbon economy, Trump makes fake promises. Fake, because he cannot deliver on them. And because he does not really care, I don’t think, about relatively poorer Americans – his real base are the rich. The trend to a low-carbon economy and society are unstoppable. Wind and solar PV have passed parity with coal. Instead of positioning America for a stake in the future low-carbon economy. Trump is continuing to promote sectors and industries that will be uncompetitive. He is effectively urging investment into assets that will predictably become stranded in future. He will harm the US economy, discouraging investors in renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies. The uncertainty is compounded by the expectation that this policy cannot last – maybe it will not be the next Presidential tweet that does a flip-flop, but the next Administration quite likely. In short, the current US President misleads Americans that this move will protect the US economy and workers.