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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/18/17

Naomi Klein Warns Europe May Water Down Paris Accord to Win Support from Trump

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AMY GOODMAN: So, let's just start with those two clips. You have the national security adviser, General McMaster, saying fake news, wrong reports, we're not pulling -- we are continuing to pull out of the climate accord. And then you have Rex Tillerson, former head of ExxonMobil, saying, no, you know, we're considering going back in.

NAOMI KLEIN: I wouldn't assume that this is just incompetence and chaos. It could be. I mean, it often is. But, you know, there has always been this debate, sort of summed up by this phrase in a different context, but related to why many polluters in the United States decided to be part of negotiating climate legislation, what would have been climate legislation under Obama, which is "You're either at the table or you're on the menu," which is something I quoted in This Changes Everything, i.e., be at the table so that you can water it down. Right? And I think it is worth remembering that when Trump made that address in the Rose Garden, when he announced that he was pulling out of the Paris Agreement, he actually didn't say it was because climate change is a hoax. He said it was because he was going to negotiate a better deal, Amy, like a better deal for the United States. So I think that what Tillerson is actually signaling is--

AMY GOODMAN: Although he had called it a Chinese hoax.

NAOMI KLEIN: Of course he had, yeah, but he didn't say that when he pulled out. He said he was going to negotiate a better deal. And I think we should be very afraid of what Trump considers a better deal. We should be very afraid of what Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon, considers a better deal.

I think what Tillerson is doing is signaling to other world leaders, "If you make enough concessions, then we might come back." So the real danger of what they're doing right now is that it signals to a Macron, a Trudeau, some of these figures, you know, even Theresa May, some of these figures who sort of position themselves as brokers between the Trump administration and the rest of the world community, people who have Trump's ear or who can make him a better guy, that they might be able to bring the U.S. back in. And as you know, Amy, when the Paris Agreement was negotiated, there was outcry because it is insufficiently strong, because it allows countries to just walk away without real ramifications. It is not legally binding. You know, it doesn't even mention the fossil fuel industry in the entire agreement.

So, it could be even worse. It could be even weaker. And we may end up with a situation, worst-case scenario, where Europe or other players succeed in watering down the Paris Agreement in order to get the U.S. back, and actually fail at that, but, from the interests of the oil industry, it's a great scenario, because it means that this agreement, which is -- has been signed by the vast -- by almost every country on Earth, becomes weaker than it is right now. I would argue that Rex Tillerson isn't just interested in what the U.S. does about climate change. It's interested in what the whole world does. When I say "it," I mean Exxon, sorry. I confuse Rex Tillerson and Exxon sometimes.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go back to June, when President Trump announced he's withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate accord, signed by nearly 200 nations in 2015.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund, which is costing the United States a vast fortune.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Trump announcing pulling out of the climate accord. And before we go to break, since this will be a subject, unless President Trump succeeds in just changing the subject by perhaps tweeting out another GIF of him physically assaulting Hillary Clinton, you know, this made-up GIF of an anti-Semitic --


AMY GOODMAN: -- tweeter and transphobic tweeter, and then that diverts all the discussion. If the issue on climate change does continue this week, explain what that accord is, for people really to understand.

NAOMI KLEIN: So, it is the best that the global community has been able to come up with so far, you know, better than anything we've had so far, but really not good enough. And Trump, in that clip, talked about the nationally determined targets. What the Paris Agreement is, is the world community coming together, setting a goal of keeping temperatures below what was determined to be really catastrophic climate change, so they set this target of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius above what it was before humans started burning fossil fuels on an industrial scale. There was a huge fight about that 2-degree target, because we've already warmed the planet by 1 degree Celsius, and we are already seeing such catastrophic effects. And so, there was a push to make it more ambitious, to make it 1.5. So, the agreement has some complicated language, making best efforts to meet 1.5, but definitely keeping it below 2 degrees Celsius.

The problem with the agreement is that it's made up of these nationally determined plans. So every country was able to bring their best efforts to the table, right? And so, the centerpiece of the U.S.'s efforts was Obama's Clean Power Plan. And every country brought its own best efforts. If you added up all of the best efforts, it didn't lead to that target of 1.5 to 2 degrees. It led to a pathway to twice that level of warming. So, basically, what the world community -- world leaders said was "We know what we have to do, and we're willing to do roughly half that." And even that is not binding, because it's set within its own countries.

This is what's important for people to understand. This is largely a sideshow when he comes to the United States, because Trump has already announced that he is scrapping the centerpiece of the U.S.'s commitment under the Paris Agreement, which is Obama's Clean Power Plan, which would accelerate the wind-down of coal in this country. Scott Pruitt is already busily dismantling that. So, if the U.S. has already decided it's not going to live up to what -- the centerpiece of its responsibility under the Paris Agreement, whether it's in or it's out is largely semantics. So that's why it really matters whether the rest of the world follows the U.S. down this pathway of reduced ambition, as opposed increased ambition.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, Bonn, this year's U.N. climate summit, can be particularly important, especially going to the issue you were talking about, that the U.S., now pulling out, will say, "Well, maybe, we'll see, if you somehow weaken it further," though everyone has signed on.

NAOMI KLEIN: Right, whereas I think what the appropriate response to this renegade behavior from the Trump administration, this incredibly reckless behavior, is for the rest of the world to increase its ambitions, to make up for what the U.S. is doing, and also for subnational governments in the United States -- the states, the cities -- to increase their ambition. And that's what we saw in the immediate aftermath of Trump's announcement, right? I mean, that -- you know, I think we've talked about this before, Amy, but that -- you know, that line when Trump said he was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris, and then the mayor of Pittsburgh steps forward and says, "Well, actually, Pittsburgh voted for Hillary," and then he pledged to get Pittsburgh to 100 percent renewable energy, I think, by 2030. Now, that is the kind of ambition that we need to see in the United States at the subnational level, as well as outside the United States from countries that are led by people who are positioning themselves as climate leaders, like Canada, like France. And so, you know, it's really the opposite of this "Well, how can we help you, Mr. Trump? You know, how can we weaken this agreement further, weaken our own ambitions further, so that you'll feel comfortable at this table?" -- which will be completely ineffective. And there's really a choice there. We have to be clear about that.

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