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Tuesday / April 25.

With Trump in the White House, what next for the fight against climate change?

By Upasana Hembram

There is sufficient evidence to corroborate climate change as the greatest threat to the planet. Despite this, the Trump administration has pledged to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement and decimate Obama administration’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean power. The Trump administration has also pledged to curb the funding towards research in climate science. Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a lawyer whose career was propelled by suing the EPA and the American Meteorological Society. He has publicly denied that GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions are the primary contributors to climate change.

Agreements, treaties, and accords between nation-states, non-governmental organisations, and other civil society groups are already extraordinarily difficult to reach in the rather combative area of climate diplomacy. How the diplomats and climate advocates deal with Trump on climate change without attracting the ire of the White House remains to be seen.

A softer approach

European diplomats spearheading the climate change movement must be careful in acknowledging the mischaracterisation of climate science so far. The upcoming G7 and G20 summits, to be held in Italy and Germany respectively, present themselves as ideal opportunities to initiate a constructive dialogue. Without being overly assertive, climate advocates and diplomats need to persuade the U.S. to remain in the Paris accord. They need to make sure that the U.S. supports the G20’s joint proclamation of commitment to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Staying bound to the Paris agreement only requires timely paperwork and obligatory attendance. Walking out of it, however, will cause massive diplomatic ramifications. The Trump administration cannot afford such ramifications given their immediate concerns on trade and national security. However, this negotiation strategy to garner cooperation from the United States has a high risk of invoking backlash from the effervescent Donald Trump. This is majorly because Trump is sceptical of alliances and claims that climate change is a “Chinese hoax”.

Hoping for a compromise: How the U.S. can be lured

Ivanka Trump and a few other advisers in Trump’s team, however, haven’t completely dismissed having a seat on the table. They are contemplating staying in the agreement while scrapping the pledge to limit carbon emissions. One way to approach this volatile dialogue is to appeal to the employment opportunities that could be entailed.

The key word here is ‘jobs’. Renewable and clean energy sectors are likely to create a large number of job opportunities. According to the OECD’s ENV-Linkages model, the demand for jobs is increasing in the clean energy sectors. As per a study published by the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program, the US solar and wind industries are creating jobs twelve times faster than the overall economy. The biggest cause of worry during this industrial transformation would be the loss of jobs in the fossil fuel sector. Nevertheless, the US could prevent such a transition in the economy by facilitating a smooth changeover. Strategic investments, coupled with smart policies to fund for the job security of displaced workers will be crucial. In the short term, job transition would be relatively easier as low-carbon technologies are more labour-intensive. This would be the case until progress in technology would make machinery more efficient and eventually cut down on costs. Technology and innovation led changes have proven that they are powerful instruments of job creation, growth, and prosperity. A shift to the emerging green sector will create more jobs in the long run than it will extinguish in the short term. The U.S. could use the opportunities at the G7 and G20 summits to its advantage. It could use these numbers for a more expansive discussion on energy and eventually take a definitive stance on climate change.

Meanwhile, China has been extensively trying to expand its diplomatic influence by joining hands with the EU to lead the global fight against climate change. Even though the EU-China leadership is garnering support from several countries for their ambitious plan to negate global warming, climate change cannot be a secondary priority. The operation requires political cooperation of the highest level and should be enhanced to more than just a technical partnership.


Featured Image Credits: Center For Progressive Reform