George W Bush failed in his attempt to block global action on climate change. His mistake – about to be repeated by Trump – was to imagine the UN process was weak
Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Thursday 1 June 2017 16.50 BSTLast modified on Friday 2 June 2017 00.36 BST
photo above: A polar bear leaps over melting ice, Svalbard archipelago, Norway. Photograph: Paulette Sinclair/Alamy Stock Photo
WN: Everything about Trump is catastrophic “natural disaster”. Actions based on climate change denial,
and US nuclear rearmaments and potential use under Trump threaten the world like never before. Trump does not care about America or the Planet. He is – and apparently always has been1 – obsessed with himself. Not only is he apotheosis of “The Ugly American“, he is nothing less than “Planet Enemy Number One“.
Yet we are called by Christ to “love our enemies“. A tall order in the case of Trump. And we choose also to “resist not evil” (in kind).
‘Get out of the way!’
Every tactic [to derail climate action] tried by Bush failed. The Major Economies Forum turned into an instrument for forcing US action; the G8 leaders, led by Angela Merkel, rounded on Bush and forced him to sign up to their climate pledge; the UN carried on negotiations while ignoring Washington.
The ultimate humiliation came at the UN conference in Bali at the end of 2007. Having held out for two weeks against allowing work to begin on a post-Kyoto agreement, the US negotiators were left isolated as fraught and sleepless talks headed into an extra day. Finally, in the sweaty tropical heat of the conference floor, the representative from Papua New Guinea shouted an impassioned ultimatum, to roars and cheers from the assembled nations: “If you’re not willing to lead, get out of the way!” Deserted by every ally, Bush’s chief diplomat could stand it no longer. The US conceded; the gavel came down; the process that would eventually lead to the Paris agreement was at last begun. Bush’s humiliation at the hands of one of the world’s smallest nations was total.
Since then, the forces arrayed against US intransigence have multiplied. China for many years held out against any suggestion it should take on national targets to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. But at Paris, the Beijing government marked a major change, signing up to play its role in the global targets. This commitment came only after China had begun to realign its economy to a cleaner, greener footing. Having staked its prestige, Beijing will not turn back.
For the Chinese, and other big developing nations from India to Brazil, Mexico to South Korea, the Trump administration’s attitude offers an irresistible opportunity. They can now claim the moral high ground, having signed up in good faith to make Paris a success, reducing their own emissions and investing in modern technology. They, not the US, have influence to gain here, by offering help to poorer developing nations, the worst affected by climate change. China and other big countries are no longer as dependent on the US economy as they once were – the financial crisis saw to that.
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