cartoon by Atefeh Madani, Iranian daily Ghanoon
Arguably one of the most unexpected events since the onset of the Trump administration's unconventional policy reform is the United States backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement, severing alliances with world leaders tackling climate change.
Meanwhile, a rescaling of governance regarding climate change has taken root, where various stakeholders ranging from long-standing autonomous nations to state leaders are emerging as key players in combatting climate change. Could we be transitioning into a new world order on the environmental front, where Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is inadvertently inspiring increased environmental responsibility amongst global players?
Trump's reason for retracting from the Paris agreement is that the deal appeared unfair to American laborers, favoring instead the emerging economies of China and India. He expressed interest in a new accord that will be "more fairly constructed", meanwhile choosing to invest in coal and fossil fuel development, leaving climate scientists and world leaders alike in dismay.
Immediately following Trump's declaration of intent to pull out of the agreement in June 2017, various world leaders including Germany, France and Italy verbalized their disappointment with the move. Perhaps the most salient was a statement delivered by French President Emmanuel Macron, urging Americans, the French, and other global citizens to continue to work towards the commitments made in Paris to "make our planet great again." China and the EU also saw this as a call to strengthen their commitments to the accord, strengthening their alliance to ensure energy transitions towards a clean low-carbon economy that will benefit the international community.
Even on a domestic front, governors representing Trump's "United" States of America from California, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island came together to compensate for the noncompliance of their nation's president. California's Governor Jerry Brown's commitment to the climate accord is particularly noteworthy. Under his direction, the state of California and the Chinese government have discussed prospects of integrating California's carbon trade market with China's advanced market to bolster opportunities of knowledge exchange between their Ministries of Science and Technology. This is just one example of increased rescaling of governance on the climate front, where various stakeholders ranging from government groups at the state level to private and public firms at the local level are leading engagement efforts towards a sustainable and safer tomorrow.
Movements led by members of civil society are also on the rise, as in the case of the G20 protests in Hamburg held in early July. Protesters demonstrated against President Trump's environmental policies and fellow G20 leaders who conduct important political dealings behind closed doors. The G20 consists of 19 nations and the European Union and control roughly 80% of the global gross domestic product, but there is growing frustration surrounding the distribution of power amongst select governments that is fueling a new voice in the field of governance.
These sentiments are even being captured in the film industry, as we see seeds of activism take root. The sequel to Vice president Al Gore's monumental documentary An Inconvenient Truth was released last month. The new film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, examines the progression of the climate movement including the Paris Accord and the election of Donald Trump. The film is both relatable and complete with humor in order to engage with wide audiences around the world, irrespective of age or culture, serving as a mode of inspiration amongst diverse factions of civil society.
Transboundary alliances to combat climate change are also on the rise, even in light of Trump's attempt to further depolarize international collaborations. North of the U.S., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has already engaged in outreach with U.S. governors to combat climate change following Trump's decision to pull out of the accord.
Likewise, nearly 7,000 miles away in a nation that is often at odds with the U.S. on foreign policy, the head of Iran's Department of Environment (DoE), Masoumeh Ebtekar echoed sentiments by leaders from Europe and China. She sees Trump's move as illogical, particularly in backing out of an agreement between diverse nations that often have differing political agendas. While Iran's Guardian Council still has not approved Iran's commitment to the Paris deal, the nation was one of 195 nations that signed onto the monumental Paris Agreement during COP21 in December of 2015. Trump's decision to pull out of the accord makes the United States one of three nations, including Nicaragua and Syria, opting out of the agreement.
As Iran awaits approval to follow through on its commitments, a new opposition group is forming in the nation, pushing for a similar withdrawal from the accord as in the case of the United States. The group recently released a propaganda film entitled, Ladder of Deception, which claims that climate change is largely concerned with ungovernable rising temperatures and has little to do with the anthropogenic factors humans have induced on our planet. Seeing as the U.S. has transformed from a leader in drafting the accord to now pulling out of the deal, those involved with the opposition movement are convinced that the agreement was a designed hoax by the U.S. to limit the economic growth of developing nations including Iran. This newfound anti-Paris deal rhetoric interestingly aligns with anti-Iran deal sentiments that are slowly emerging in state television, categorizing both as bad negotiations.
Despite the development of this opposition campaign, it has only strengthened the efforts of those committed to delivering Iran's promises at COP21. In fact, last week Iran's energy minister, Hamid Chitchian, affirmed his commitments to upholding the deal, stating that his nation should not leave the agreement as it is in accordance with the supreme leader's environmental orders.
The emerging world order induced by the controversial policies of the Trump administration may worry many about the future fate of our environment. Notwithstanding, it has unexpectedly served as a call to action to international players, supporting the rise of new actors in the environmental front, and forged collaborations between experts from nations that are otherwise at odds in foreign policy. Furthermore, it is empowering different factions of society to both voice their concerns about environmental matters and take interest in environmental management in a manner unlike ever before.
While it is not apparent what the future of environmental management will hold, one thing that is for sure is that power dynamics in combating climate change are transforming into a more inclusive and holistic system. Perhaps Trump's actions are, albeit unintentionally, inspiring a movement in making the environment great again.
About the authors:
Shirin Hakim (@shirinhakim) is a doctoral researcher at the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College, London, working on environmental issues in Iran.
Kaveh Madani (@KavehMadani) is an environmental management expert and reader of systems analysis and policy at the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College, London.
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