Trump question looms as US signs climate pact in Morocco
Thursday, November 17, 2016
I am glad to report that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson physically signed an agreement Wednesday that will have a major effect on the future of the U.K. I speak of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, not the Article 50 documents that would confirm our exit from the European Union. There is no sign of them yet.
In fact, the events of the past couple of weeks have put the Brexit uncertainty in the U.K. into context. The multiple questions we might have over our future outside of the European community seem somehow less significant compared with the questions Americans must have over Donald J. Trump.
But don't worry, I am not going to go all political on you. No, we're going to focus on things that are more directly relevant to the cooling and heating industry.
That brings us directly to President-elect Trump's position on climate change. Forget the swing in politics from left to right when the new president is sworn in, and think instead of the swing in attitudes to the planet.
Only a few short weeks ago, I wrote admiringly of the U.S. commitment to the Montreal Protocol talks — particularly the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry flew in to put some political clout behind the global phasedown to HFCs (OK, he got there just in time to sign the declaration, but at least he was there).
Now, we are faced with a U.S. leader who allegedly thinks all climate actions are politically motivated and unnecessarily costly actions that threaten American jobs. Had Hillary Clinton been voted president, we can be confident the HFC phasedown would have had some measure of priority, given that she helped set up the snappily titled Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in 2012.
Instead, we have the prospect of an incoming president who memorably told "Fox & Friends" on TV that he thought "climate change is just a very expensive form of tax." So we must at least address the fact that he may see HFC phasedown as a cost too far for the U.S. in the short term.
Projects like building the Mexican border wall might have more immediate priority when Trump comes to power, but it is surely significant that the U.S. has just signed a host of ambitious emissions reductions at the latest United Nations climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco. Kerry was back on his climate globetrotting travels, possibly for the last time to attend this meeting, and his speech was loaded with subtle and not-so-subtle references to America's future stance on climate.
"The global community is more united than ever not just in accepting the challenge, but in confronting it with real action, in making a difference," Kerry said. "And no one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris."
Most significantly for the heating and cooling sector, Kerry then homed in on specifics.
"I was [recently] pleased to be in Kigali, Rwanda, when representatives from again nearly 200 countries came together to phase down the global use and production of hydrofluorocarbons — which has been expected to increase very rapidly with a danger that is multiple of times more damaging than carbon dioxide," Kerry said. "The Kigali agreement could singlehandedly help us to avoid an entire half a degree centigrade of warming by the end of the century — while at the same time opening up new opportunities for growth in a range of industries."
Would Trump risk the ire of the rest of the world's climate-focused counties by rowing back on such public commitments? Would he cite the priority of America to preserve American jobs as a reason not to invest in helping developing countries to move away from HFCs and HCFCs? Or will Trump retreat to a favorite tactic and explain away his previously stated views on climate change as a "joke"?
Only time will tell. But the view from Europe is currently a concerned one.
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