Donald Trump’s election as US president has opened pressing new conversations around the resilience of the climate movement and its need to adapt to this new circumstance – but the core response is to remain united on the Paris Agreement, reports Paul Allen.
Even though Hillary Clinton received the most votes nationally, Trump tapped into the anxiety of many US citizens around shrinking economic opportunities, immigration, falling incomes and globalisation. So over the past couple of days, delegates and observers at COP22 have been exploring the implications of a Trump administration on the Paris Agreement.
Many from the US remain confident that the rapidly expanding deployment of clean energy solutions by businesses, cities and states across the US has created enough new employment and gained sufficient momentum to continue the drive to decarbonise the US energy economy, and will therefore influence the policies of the new President. The Trump campaign has promised to create millions of new jobs for American workers – and it may well turn out that the renewable energy revolution is actually one of the most effective ways to deliver this in the realities of the 21st Century. After all, there has been clear cross-party support for investments in clean energy as well as in climate resilience. Trump’s commitment to infrastructure investment initiatives could actually provide a vehicle to deliver both of these.
It is important not to underestimate the impact of interfaith groups in the US. Over recent years, a coalition of development, faith, environmental and business groups have been actively engaging both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, educating them on how investment in renewable energy is not charity or a hand-out, but rather a smart investment with economic, environmental and security benefits for all Americans.
With this in mind, I attended a US interfaith press briefing to see what perspectives they offer. Jenny Phillips, pastor of the United Methodist Church USA and member of the Green Faith group was quietly confident. She said “We are still absorbing the implications of the election, and we can’t know everything yet, but we do know some things won’t change – faith groups know climate change is real. Our churches’ strong clear voice will keep on rising, affirming a strong new politics and delivering action on the ground. Global momentum is still building and is unstoppable.”
I asked the panel if President Trump had ever expressed any faith or belief, or is he the first non-Christian President? They suggested Trump had expressed a relationship with the Presbyterian Church, and the US interfaith community were currently in the process of preparing to reach out to him.
Increasing numbers of governments across the globe understand that rapid climate action can reduce the dangerous impacts on their people whilst offering public health and economic co-benefits. Undoubtedly these governments will continue to move ahead on their Paris Agreement commitments and if President Trump decides not to honour America’s commitments, he will quickly learn that this will impact on his ability to gain support from global leaders on other issues important to him.
Climate is now a high-level geopolitical issue, and any country perceived as not doing its fair share will quickly lose standing in the world. The US elections do nothing to change this fundamental truth.