Donald Trump pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord isn’t really a surprise, even if the move made headlines. International climate protection is much more stable than most people think.
This is the kind of face-off many people in the media love. On the one hand, scientists warn with increasing urgency of climate change’s consequences as hundreds of thousands of young people around the world take to the streets, demanding that action finally be taken. On the other hand, ignorant statesmen such as US President Donald Trump defend fossil fuel and its profits. Nationalism and populism also prevent the world from really working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Chile, meanwhile, had to cancel hosting the annual UN climate conference because unrest in the country meant that a safe meeting with many thousands of attendees could no longer be guaranteed.
187 of 193 states are signatories
Yes, all of the above is true, but surprisingly quickly, Madrid jumped in to replace Chile’s capital, Santiago, as host. Trump had already announced about two-and-a-half years ago that he would be withdrawing from the Paris Treaty, so that move is no longer a real surprise. Less attention is paid to the fact that 187 out of 193 UN member states have now signed the agreement, most recently Russia. In response to Trump’s rejection of climate protection, France and China also want to adopt a declaration stating that the goals of the 2015 Paris Treaty are “irreversible”.
The Paris agreement is not sufficient. It is unclear whether its provisions will lead to limiting an average rise in temperatures on Earth to 2 degrees Celsius, better yet 1.5 degrees. In the midst of the increasingly hysterical global debate on climate protection, however, one should remember that this international framework still exists. The progress made at the annual climate meetings may often be minimal and there have been setbacks. But that is understandable when attempting to reconcile the interests of almost every country in the world.
It’s no help to climate protection if the debate about who does it best or whether climate change exists at all, continues to heat up. Right-wing populists – who are making their opposition to climate protection their next big issue along with the rejection of migration – are most likely to benefit from the frenzy.
Compromise will be needed
Trump despises international agreements themselves, not just the ones concerning the greenhouse effect. Young protesters are demanding rapid changes. It would be a fatal mistake if those two opposing positions were to lead people to believe that exhausting compromises were no longer the solution.
The youth revolt against the older generation’s passivity is right and important. It increases the pressure on those who are responsible to finally act and make unpopular decisions. Facing off with Donald Trump, the villain, on one side and Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, on the other, is not very helpful. The fact remains that international climate protection is a highly complex business for which there are currently few options. Quite simply, a blustering climate opponent such as Trump is irrelevant to this process. DW