Strip away all the noise about President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, and one thing stands out: Trump thinks of himself as a master dealmaker, but in this case he has badly miscalculated.
His decision to abandon an agreement made on terms favorable to the United States reveals how poor a judge of a deal Trump really is — and just how inexperienced and inept his administration can be. It is evidence of a president way in over his head when it comes to international diplomacy.
The truth is that the Paris deal was a triumph of American leadership — not only for the future of the planet but for American self-interest. What’s more, pulling out of Paris will damage the U.S. much more than it damages the agreement itself. The rest of the world will continue moving forward. It’s America — and American competitiveness — that will be left behind.
Gains for the planet
It’s easy to understand why the Paris accord was a triumph for our children and grandchildren. For the first time, nearly every country in the world came together to commit to take action on climate change — overcoming the decades-long divide between developed and developing countries that had stymied progress before.
But let’s take as a given that Trump and some of his advisers, like Scott Pruitt and Steve Bannon, don’t understand or care about the threat facing our society from climate change. What about good old American self-interest?
For a quarter-century, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, three pillars of U.S. climate diplomacy have remained constant. First, full participation from all countries — especially fast-growing developing economies like China and India.
Second, the absolute right for the U.S. to decide its own domestic policies and determine its own path.
Third, transparency in how countries report their emissions and demonstrate progress toward their targets. The U.S. has the most sophisticated emission reporting system in the world. So it’s in our interests — as well as the planet’s — to hold everyone to the same high bar.
In Paris, the U.S. stuck to its guns and insisted on a deal that demanded contributions from all countries, relied on “nationally determined” targets, required transparent reporting of emissions — and made everyone play by the same rules.
And that’s what we got.
In terms Trump might understand, we were winners on our core issues. But here’s what he may never get: it was not a zero-sum game. By advocating for core American interests —global participation in the agreement and strong provisions for transparency — the U.S. also secured a stronger global deal for everyone.
America in retreat
And that’s why Trump’s short-sighted decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement is so deeply disappointing: Because after the U.S. stood on principle and ensured that nearly every country in the world would participate in the agreement, we are going to sit on the sidelines. We are going to throw in our lot with Syria and Nicaragua, the only two countries on the planet that refused to sign the agreement.
Credit : Forbes