DELEGATES at the UN climate summit in Marrakesh, Morocco, struck a defiant tone on Wednesday, as they awoke to news that Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States.
With the historic Paris Agreement, which was signed last year, coming into force last week, in large part thanks to US political leadership from President Obama, there is concern about how a Trump Presidency will affect global efforts to tackle climate change.
The campaign group 350.org, which has led the global fossil-fuel divestment movement, described Trump’s victory as a “disaster”. A statement from the group said: “Trump will try to slam the brakes on climate action, which means we need to throw all of our weight on the accelerator.”
But Alden Mayer, the director of strategy and policy of the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Washington DC, said that there was evidence that US action on climate change may not be discarded quite so easily. He said: “Donald Trump is about to become one of most powerful men in the world, but even he doesn’t have the power to change the laws of physics, to stop temperatures rising, and try to roll back the seas like King Canute. Climate change is now an issue of global geopolitical magnitude and no country will be able to get away without doing their fair share. If Trump wants to keep the global co-operation he needs to achieve his goals on trade and terrorism, he will not be able be a rogue nation on climate change.”
Mr Meyer added: “President-elect Trump has different responsibilities than Trump the candidate. He now has a responsibility to protect the American people. If he wants to deliver on his promise to create millions of new jobs, he can’t ignore the global renewable energy revolution. Other countries are fighting for leadership in this race and it will be in America’s interest to maintain its current leadership. China, India, Brazil, and the EU are not moving ahead on clean energy and climate change to please the US, they are doing it in their own interests to protect their people and reap the benefits of global transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Although climate-change policy may divide some US politicians, embracing renewable energy is actually something that unites the US’s divided public. A Pew Research study published in October 2016 suggested that 83 per cent of Americans support expanding wind farms, and 89 per cent support expansion of solar energy.
The Bishop of Bunyoro-Kitara, in Uganda, the Rt Revd Nathan Kwamanya, was troubled by the result, but believed that economic reality and international pressure would bear fruit. He said: “What he says in the campaign is one thing. Now he has to face reality. The US economy is not almighty, it can’t isolate itself. He can’t go it alone, he needs others. He will have to listen.”
Joe Ware is a writer and journalist at Christian Aid.