PRESIDENT Trump’s announcement that the US will pull out of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement adopted in 2015 has shocked the world, with near universal condemnation of the move.
After all, the US is the world’s second biggest polluter—accounting for 14 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emission—after China with 30 percent. If you include India’s 7 percent, these three countries already account for 51 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. If the US doesn’t cut its carbon emissions, the climate pact is doomed.
China has suddenly become the world’s environmental leader, announcing that it wouldn’t pull out of the pact which it struggled mightily not to join.
After all, the US is now the most advanced industrialized nation, and had already polluted the world for over a century, using the cheap, polluting coal the West is now condemning. In contrast, China is still struggling to be an industrialized nation, and its argument against joining the pact is certainly valid: Now that the West has already become industrialized, it has no right to demand that China stop using the cheapest source of power, coal, that the Western countries used before.
Trump’s move though is good news for us. We could use it as a perfect excuse to withdraw from the past administration’s commitment to the pact that was so unrealistic, and could even block our development.
Rather than his own well-considered stand, it was more of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s pandering to the NGO crowd that had been one of his biggest political bases.
The Aquino government pledged to reduce the country’s pollution levels by 70 percent by 2030. (This consists of all emissions from all sectors, including the result of changes, land use, land use change and forestry, and those from industrial, energy and agricultural emissions.)
This was pure braggadocio. We are way down in the list of polluters, ranked 39th. Our neighbor Indonesia is the 13th biggest polluter, while Malaysia is 28th and Vietnam 31st. We contribute only 0.3 percent of global CO2 emissions, yet we pledged to reduce that by 70 percent.
The more industrialized Thailand pledged to lower its emissions only by 20 percent, and Indonesia by 29 percent. China, the United States and India –pledged reductions of only 24 percent, 25 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.
There is no other country that pledged a reduction by anything more than 30 percent. That certainly makes us look like high-school braggarts. Aquino was pretending that the Philippines is a developed country.
The crux of the controversy here – everyone wishes for a clean planet – is that non-industrial countries—and China and Russia really still are in this category—allege that the industrial countries led by the US polluted the planet many decades ago, and that pollution is the price we now have to pay for those countries’ economic growth.
Why should the developing countries, especially China and India, be handicapped now in their industrialization? Why did the US pledge only a 25 percent reduction in its emissions, when it is the world’s richest nation that can afford to reduce its pollution drastically, as Europe in the past decades has done? (Germany, for instance, accounts for only 2.2 percent of CO2 emissions, while Italy and France account for a mere 0.9 percent each.)
Trump explained why, when he announced that he will pull out of the pact: ““I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said. He obviously meant that he felt that the restrictions imposed by the Paris pact will be to the disadvantage of US industries, which incur higher costs to comply with the pollution-reduction commitments.
I admire President Duterte for early on studying this issue, and taking on a stand. Provoked by an impertinent ambassador (of a country he didn’t name) who reminded him of the Philippines’ commitment to the pact, Duterte angrily told the nation July 18,2016, just two weeks after he assumed office:
“I wanted to kick him. I said, ‘You don’t do it that way, Mr. Ambassador. [Your country] has reached the apex [of industrialization]and along the way put a lot of contaminants and emissions, and went ahead in destroying the climate’.”
“We have not reached the age of industrialization. We’re now going into it. But you are trying to stymie [our growth]with an agreement that says you can only go up to here,” he added.
“That’s stupid. I will not honor that,” he told the ambassador.
Told that the Philippines had signed the pact, Duterte said he told the ambassador: “That was not my signature. It’s not mine … I will not follow.”
“Now that we’re developing, you will impose a limit?” he said. “That’s absurd.”
Duterte told his audience: “That’s how very competitive and constricted our lives are now. It’s being controlled by the world, it’s being imposed upon us by the industrialized countries. They think that they can dictate the destiny of the rest of the [world].”
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao