The standing ovation that greeted adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in December 2015 now seems like a distant memory, overtaken in our minds by more recent cataclysmic events, notably the UK’s Brexit referendum result last June and the election of Donald Trump as US president in November.
Of these two external threats, Trump is more serious. He represents a spanner in the works in terms of mobilising international action to deal with the biggest single environmental threat facing humanity — global warming.
Not only has he derided it as a “hoax”, but he has also given the go-ahead for new oil pipelines and set about disabling the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The narcissistic property mogul-turned-politician has also talked about “beautiful clean coal”, with his eye on the rust belt states that tipped the election in his favour. He is trying to turn back the clock by facilitating the further development of fossil fuels at a time when the world — including the US itself — is increasingly switching over to renewable energy sources that have never been cheaper than they are now.
As an >Irish Times< editorial put it, “President Trump is in Luddite mode”. One of the first things he did on taking office was to remove all reference to Barack Obama’s climate change action plan from the White House website.
It has since been replaced by his “America First Energy Plan”, which includes only a passing reference to environmental protection. We may expect more of the same in the months that follow.
But resistance is growing, as exemplified by the thronged Women’s March on Washington and the determined way in which environmental organisations, such as the long-established Sierra Club, are now gearing up to fight Trump’s approval for the highly-contentious Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, pledging to “fight this tooth and nail” by going to court, if necessary, to reverse these executive orders.
As the >Irish Times< said, “We are certainly living in interesting times when it has now fallen to China, run by a totalitarian regime, to champion both free trade and the need to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”
Ironically, it came into force internationally last November –in record time for any UN treaty — just days before Trump emerged as the winner of the US presidential election.
For Ireland, the worst response to all of this would be to slacken still further our already mediocre performance in this vital area. The Government needs to focus clearly on developing renewable energy sources, converting coal-fired Moneypoint to run on cleaner fuel and prioritising a major programme for retro-fitting people’s homes to make them much more energy-efficient. It’s not rocket science!