U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that his country is pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement.
While the decision may not have been a huge surprise, the U.S. government had been sending mixed signals about its plans. At last month’s Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured the eight Arctic states and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations that form the council that the U.S. was “not going to rush” into a decision.
However, three weeks later the decision was made and it has generated a massive amount of commentary. Trump said he wanted to “renegotiate” the agreement but the reaction from world leaders has been negative to the idea.
Vorege Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, called Trump’s move “deeply disappointing.” Bainimarama, whose country, along with other Pacific Ocean island states is already feeling the brunt of climate change, will chair this year’s climate change conference in Bonn.
"While the loss of America’s leadership is unfortunate, this is a struggle that is far from over," he said.
Fiji was devastated by a deadly cyclone in early 2016. Cylone Winston was one of the largest storms ever to hit the island. At category 5 it came with wind gusts reaching 300 kilometres per hour and killed 44 people. Another 350,000 were directly affected and the small island country was left with $650 million in damage.
Whether a single event can be attributed to climate change is uncertain. However, research shows that one of the effects of a changing climate is increasingly violent and unpredictable storms
“The science on climate change is perfectly clear: we need more action, not less,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, in a statement. “This a global challenge. Every nation has a responsibility to act and to act now.”
Solheim said the effort to tackle climate change is “unstoppable” and won’t be derailed by the American action. “China, India, the European Union and others are already showing strong leadership. 190 nations are showing strong determination to work with them to protect this and future generations.”
To Trump’s argument that the climate deal was hurting the U.S. economy and costing jobs, Solheim said shifting “to renewable energy creates more jobs, better paid jobs and better quality jobs. Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels will build more inclusive and robust economies. It will save millions of lives and slash the huge healthcare cost of pollution.
“The Paris Agreement is founded on clear evidence, solid science and incredible international collaboration,” he said. “It will put aside differences to tackle a common, monumental challenge. The reversal of damage to the ozone layer proves that such a global effort can succeed."
“Ultimately, this is an investment in our own survival that no-one can afford to abandon.”