Mr Trump, planetary conditions are not negotiable

Comment: Japan’s former environment and climate ambassador offers his analysis on how the international community can tackle the US president’s climate war

Donald Trump says the Paris Agreement is unfair to the US (Pic: Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr)


The guy Michael Moore qualified as “part-time clown and full-time sociopath” is now demonstrating an unnerving proclivity for revenge and this at an epic level now that he’s the president of the United States (POTUS).

Revenge against everything liberal and everything Obama in his puerile attempt to call the shots. Richard Branson may be feeling his sage advice did nothing to change him.

In my view, at least as far as this inaugural period is concerned, he is acting so much more driven by an ardent urge to show off his presidency and nullify Obama than by his conviction against climate science and climate actions.

The decisions on two oil pipelines, gag order to the EPA, elimination of climate pages from websites of the White House are very serious indeed, but may look like belonging to this revenge category.

What will come after this inaugural period is most serious as it will reflect his personal core. Is he really anti-climate and opposed to energy transition?  Is he rotten to the core?

First, the property developer knows barely anything about climate change let alone basic energy issues. Just see this article and see how he is completely out of his depth on energy.

…Back in late May Robert Murray, the CEO of the major US coal producer Murray Energy, told a coal industry conference that the week before he had been summoned by Donald Trump to discuss energy policy options. Murray, who has a long history of generously funding Republican candidates, was happy to oblige as Trump had become the presumptive Republican nominee.

Murray recounted he suggested Trump should help increase US Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports in order to reduce the domestic gas glut.

Murray, who has no interests in US gas production, wasn’t being charitable towards another industry struggling with low prices. The domestic gas glut has driven domestic prices down so far coal has become uncompetitive. Exporting gas currently consumed domestically would simply ensure less competition for Murray Energy’s coal.

Murray said Trump liked the idea but asked “What’s LNG?”

Despite Trump’s rudimentary understanding of energy issues Murray told SNL Trump was “the horse to ride” in the campaign for US President.

And ride he did….

From my small vantage point, he is a “malleable piece of clay” (Frank Bruni NYT). He is not a man of deep conviction. He’s not a man of principle.

It may (or might remotely) be possible that once he hits the pale, once he felt fullness after a streak of revenge, he would then move to another pathological spasm: burning ache for winning adulation, adoration and acclaim.

He derided the intelligence community and then visited the CIA to appease them.

Many things could happen from here. We must keep our fingers crossed. Rex Tillerson could play a role (despite his half climate conviction) in bringing his boss from his parochial intoxication to the reality.

However strongly and strenuously he brags he is the best on all issues, he can’t beat the harsh market reality that coal is being defeated, renewables are on the rise and all what BNEF and its ilk are reporting is the new truth, not alt-truth or alternative facts.

POTUS also should be reminded that his plan to deliver old jobs to the Rust Belts by digging coal and scrapping regulations in favor of fossil industries would only allow enterprises to use age-old and non-competitive technologies.

President Trump said he would be “the greatest job producer God ever created”.

But those jobs are not going to be high tech innovations and do not ensure the future of the US. It’s only that those folks who lost their jobs get back to the old assembly lines. How can one boast about all this invoking God? How is this to make America great again if at all?

He must be reminded that the whole gamut of clean energy technologies provides finer and better paying jobs that won’t flee beyond borders.

He must be reminded that the whole new life style and new sustainable socio-economic structure, new thriving clean economy, beautiful and efficient urbanization and new nimble transport are capable of pushing the US (and world) economy forward with the same vigour and increased job opportunities.

Moving on to the international context, I think all great climate leaders are today saying this is the time the rest of the world keeps its strongest climate and energy front.

The rest of the world must tell him planetary conditions are not negotiable. The global community must reject his business strategy to punish adversaries and bring them to his knees.

This is not acceptable when it comes to the living conditions of our grandchildren. I was writing in Japanese media that if the US drops out, China would surely take the leadership. In Davos, President Xi said he would.

I welcome this and wish them tell the world loudly enough to be audible to all Americans. China may be beholden to coal now, but it aims at new civilization which is devoid of fossil fuels.

China intends to be the top leader and supplier of all modern innovative clean technologies and make them available to the poorest part of the world. China avant-garde and the US retro-garde.

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Lastly on the future of the Paris Agreement. You know and I know that many American politicians hate global systems. They think international bureaucracy comes at the expense of national interest.

Trump Administration is now sounding a possibility of bilateral free trade agreement in place of the TPP. To the extent this is the harbinger of their new thinking/strategy, the US might be amenable to a climate regime with fewer associates if I dare err on the side of extreme optimism.

A club idea put forward by my friend, Nat Keohane might provide a light through a dark tunnel.

I have also been advocating a new trading scheme with major emitters (30 countries with 90% of the global emissions).

This can save the planet from warming of above 2C and can be executed without scrapping the PA.

Mutsuyoshi Nishimura is Japan’s former climate ambassador and was special advisor to the cabinet on climate change

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