CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 September 2017

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Swapping global leadership for a myth

A decision by the president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, to withdraw his country from the Paris Accord on climate change weakens US global leadership.
Responses from the leaders of the G7 countries were negative. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was highly critical of Trump’s decision, calling it “extremely regrettable and that is putting it mildly.”
 
She went on to say, “We need the Paris agreement to protect creation and nothing can or will hold us back.” But she also realises that there are groups and companies in the US that have vowed to stand by the accord.
 
Merkel’s sentiments were echoed by political leaders across Europe. Unfortunately, the British prime minister, Theresa May, did not sign the joint statement, which was issued by the French, German and Italian leaders.
 
French president, Emmanuel Macron, was scathing. “President Trump’s excuse for leaving the Paris accord was that he wanted to make America Great Again,” he said in inviting scientists and those who work for climate change in the US to come to France so we can make Our Planet Great Again.
 
He continued, “If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars and shortages—a dangerous world.” Macron was clear that the US has turned its back on the world. Is this the beginning of the end of the American century? 
 
Because the US has abandoned the Paris accord, China has made it clear that it sees it as a vehicle to present itself as a leader in the international community.
 
At a summit with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, in Brussels, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said, “We are convinced that yesterday’s decision by the US to leave the Paris Accord is a mistake. The fight against climate change, and all the research, innovation and technological progress it will bring, will continue with or without the US.”
 
What the Trump administration and the Republican Party seem to be missing is that the rest of the world has commitments to address climate change, which currently is doing huge damage and will only get worse if we fail to address it adequately.
 
Writing about a visit to the Vatican on June 17 by Merkel, veteran journalist, John Allen, said that Trump has turned his back on the world by abandoning the Paris Accord and Merkel may now become the New Leader of the Free World.
 
Her policies are much closer to Pope Francis’ than those of Trump. She is an ardent supporter of the Paris Accord.
 
At her meeting with the pope, he encouraged her to work to preserve the Paris climate accord despite the US withdrawal.
 
Almost alone in Europe, she has taken a principled approach to supporting immigrants. In 2015 an estimated one million migrants and refugees settled in Germany.
 
Writing in The Irish Times on June 1 last year, Fintan O’Toole said he believes that leaving the Paris Agreement is the beginning of the end of US global leadership.
 
He said, “The announcement shows that Trump is definitively opting back into the extremist nationalist agenda that got him elected. Pulling out of the Paris Accord is an enormous self-inflicted blow to the power, prestige and economic might of the US.”
 
Trump articulated his America First Policy without understanding its global role. However, the Chinese leaders, who do understand the implications of long-term engagements see this as an opportunity to place themselves as world leaders in the area of tackling global warming.
 
For the US to cede this role is simply breathtaking. Modern economies are based on science, technology and innovation. Many, both inside and outside the US will find this approach unbelievable.
 
And, of course, the Republican Party is complicit with Trump in this drive to abandon science and opt for pollution associated with fossil fuels.
 
Backing the coal industry with promises of returning jobs in the mining industry is a return to a past myth, as the reason these industries are in decline is that mining jobs have been automated and that there is competition from renewable energy.
 
The research which is improving renewable energy will move from the US to countries such as Japan, Korea, Germany and China. The tragedy for all of us who share this one planet is that we will all be harmed by the US abandoning the Paris Accord.
 

• Father Sean McDonagh