Martin Beniston looks back at Trump’s decision to pull his country out of the Paris climate agreement

Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement has been widely discussed since June 1. Besides being a political decision which shows contempt for the rest of the planet, particularly the poorest countries which are already affected by climate change in terms of water resources, food security, natural disasters, etc., the decision of the American president is equally absurd with regard to its economic plan.

Knowing that, sooner or later, an evolution in energy production will be necessary, it’s clear that countries already investing in alternatives to coal and petrol today will be the leaders of tomorrow. Countries like China, for example, have invested more in renewable — as opposed to conventional — energies for some time. By focusing on aging technologies, Trump is making a bad bet, and it’s by no means certain the private sector will follow him in his policy.

In fact, many businesses, as well as many American states like California, are already committed to an ambitious energy transition program and there’s little chance they’ll do a U-turn. Through focusing on new technologies, those involved in this evolution are creating more jobs and attracting more investment than those who believe coal still has a future.

Therefore a “pro-climate” policy creates a “win-win” situation economically as well as environmentally, with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The decline of the coal industry in the United States followed soon after that of England in the 1980s. The closure of mines over the last quarter of a century in Kentucky and elsewhere is bound up with the economic collapse of the industry, and not with measures taken by the Obama administration with regard to the Paris agreement.

With this in mind, it’s amusing to note that the city of Pittsburgh, mentioned by Trump in his speech — “I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris” — however badly stricken it was by the decline of the coal and steel industries at the end of the 20th century, has reacted in a masterly fashion with a tweet from its mayor. In it, he dissociates the city from Washington’s position by affirming that, like New York and other large American cities, Pittsburgh is going to continue with a policy that fulfills the objectives of COP 21.

In short, one would be able to laugh at Trump’s decision —it is truly so backward-thinking and goes against all good economic sense — if it weren’t such an insult from a country largely responsible for the problem of man-made climate change, toward other countries far less responsible, but which risk paying a heavy price due to climate change’s increasingly evident impact.