UN Calls Climate Change ‘Undeniable and Unstoppable’
Even though he didn’t name the United States’ president per se, the director of the United Nations made sure Donald Trump received a loud and clear message on Tuesday. The head of the UN is not the first to express his disagreement over Trump’s efforts to backtrack the progress made so far in combating climate change. An international chorus of leaders are equally or even more unhappy with the choices of the leader of the First World.
António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, has recently delivered his first major address on climate change at New York University. In his speech, he made it clear that the rest of the world won’t be influenced by the actions of the U.S. Whether President Trump chooses to remain in the Paris climate agreement, or attempts to retract its commitments, or whether it exits, the UN will continue to work on counterbalancing the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“If any government doubts the global will and need for this accord, that is reason for all others to unite even stronger and stay the course,” Guterres said on Tuesday.
U.S. Commitment or Lack Thereof
The UN remarks came in response to Trump’s recent trip overseas, which closed with the G7 summit in Sicily. At the end of the summit, leaders of six of the seven participating nations— Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—reasserted their pledge to implement the Paris Agreement. However, the U.S. suspiciously abstained.
According to the communique, the U.S. is currently reviewing its policies and actions on climate change, as well as those regarding the Paris Agreement. Therefore, the leadership is not ready to join the consensus on these vital topics. This very comment is what prompted world leaders to speak against Trump’s decisions.
After the G7 summit, reporters quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that the whole debate about climate change was “very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying.” Later on, she made a statement while in Germany, explaining she has experienced over the past few days that you cannot fully rely on others. Without a shadow of doubt, Merkel was talking about the Trump administration.
The matter of whether to stay or leave the Paris Agreement has been in great dispute within the White House. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and other Trump advisors argue that staying in defies an energy policy that puts U.S. first. He proposes this kind of energy policy as to push for economic growth. On the other hand, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believes America should keep itself in the loop and continue to remain in the agreement.
But these are not the only sides of the debate. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry encourages the President to stay and renegotiate its position in the agreement. On his end of the discussion, Trump has been advancing climate action rollbacks. He has also announced he will reduce the 2018 budget for climate change efforts.
UN Sends a Clear Message
Guterres’ speech on Tuesday seemed to target Trump at times. He pointed out that “some” leaders may describe the climate change response as a constitutional threat to each country’s economy. However, the past few years of strategic response have proved otherwise. According to the head of the UN, both the U.S. and China have prospered by abiding to the Paris agreement commitments. In these countries, new jobs in the renewable energy sector are overtaking those created by the oil industry.
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“The real danger is not the threat to one’s economy that comes from acting,” Guterres said. “It is, instead, the risk to one’s economy by failing to act.”
Things couldn’t be simpler for Guterres. Leaders have two choices. To get on board the sustainability train and embrace green technologies, or get left behind and live in a grey future. The former will be the ones to set the new standard for economic leadership in the 21st century and onward.
Guterres also talked about the Ocean Conference, which will occur next week. Representatives of almost 200 countries will come together at UN headquarters to send out a call for action. Only with collaborative work can we limit the effects of climate change and other related threats to marine and wildlife.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has been undertaking efforts to diminish that call for action. According to Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Isabella Lovin, the Trump administration has repeatedly refused to use strong language when it comes to climate change. And the fact that the United States is not keen on speaking against clime change speaks volumes, said Lovin, who will co-chair the Ocean Conference.
To Leave or to Stay
The U.S. initiative on oceans and climate reflects the nation’s move a few weeks ago to invalidate language in a unanimous statement emitted by the Arctic Council. The American public was faced with some troublesome surprises. A leaked draft of the statement revealed six key policies where the United States slashed at language regarding climate change and the Paris Agreement.
Can America be swayed to come back into the climate agreement? Or better yet, should the UN even try to persuade one of the greatest powers in the world on this important matter? Following his speech, Guterres challenged the public to a short ‘questions & answers’ session. When asked how the UN will deal with the U.S., Guterres’ reply was rather straightforward.
“It’s very simple. When you disagree with someone, you try to convince that person.”
He added that the UN will continue to engage with the White House in regard to the importance of staying in the Paris Agreement. However, he also encouraged the Americans to remain engaged, should the U.S. government choose to leave the climate agreement. Governments are clearly not the only players in the fight against climate change. If powerful countries will leave the agreement, others will step up to fill the void.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he will finally reveal his decision on the Paris Agreement this week. According to his latest statements and sources close to Trump, the U.S. President plans to leave the accord.
Header Image: Reuters