Global responses to President Trump’s 1 June announcement of America’s plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accord included a range of statements from Commonwealth countries which had been at the forefront of lobbying for the Paris Accord.
Many Commonwealth small states have been described in climate change reports as being on the front line of climate change and these states have made their cases heard on the world stage with the help of the Commonwealth.
One of the countries identified as most vulnerable to climate change, Tuvalu, was one of the first to respond with a call by Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga for his officials to cancel any cooperation with the United States.
Below are responses across the Commonwealth to President Trump’s announcement.
Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said in an interview with Radio New Zealand: “I have instructed my officials not to talk any climate change issues with this country [America] until a new policy is put in place. I think it doesn’t make any sense to talk about any other thing if we don’t fix the problem of climate change”.
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who will be chairing the next round of United Nations climate change talks in November, suggested a “grand coalition” without the US, to push forward on the Paris agreement at the next round of talks. He said in a statement: ‘I did what I could, along with many leaders around the world, to try to persuade President Trump to remain standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we tackled the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced. While the loss of America’s leadership is unfortunate, this is a struggle that is far from over.’
The coordinator of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, Krishneil Narayan said “Certainly we are really angered by the announcement…the United States is one of the largest carbon polluting countries. We here in the Pacific island countries are really going to double our action to help with ensuring that the world is going to support the Paris agreement and implement climate action”.
Former president of Kiribati Anote Tong, who was one of the prominent Pacific voices during the Paris agreement negotiations, told ABC’s Pacific Beat that he was not surprised by Mr Trump’s decision but that it was still deeply disappointing. He said: “The withdrawal I think has huge repercussions for something that’s taken quite a long time to put together. It’s pretty selfish, I think there’s no other way to explain that. But in this case, the one with the greatest capacity to ensure justice is served is in fact becoming the bully”.
India is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and America. Speaking in May at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as reports indicated the possibility of an American withdrawal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said “Playing with the well-being of future generations would be an immoral and criminal act.” Speaking during a news conference with the French President Emmanuel Macron after the American announcement, President Modi said “The protection of the environment and the mother planet is an article of faith”.
A statement from India’s Minister with independent charge for power, coal, mining and renewable energy Piyush Goyal said: ‘India under [Prime Minister Narendra] Shri Modi’s leadership has taken up renewable energy as an article of faith and is steadfast on its Paris commitments, irrespective of what others do.’
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) issued a statement on the US decision. It said: ‘The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was more than just another international agreement on another complex international issue. It reflects the acknowledgment and acceptance that climate change is a global issue requiring global solutions. The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is therefore deeply dismayed and disappointed by the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Agreement. For us Climate Change is an existential threat. As members of a Community of Small-Island and Low-Lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS), the reality of climate change is making itself manifest to us, especially given that our Region is the most prone to natural disasters globally. The need for global action to combat this phenomenon is past urgent. As one of the prime contributors to the emissions which continue to push global temperature rise to an untenable level, the leadership of the United States in efforts to curb the warming of the planet is an important factor. Abdication of that responsibility sends a negative signal particularly to those of us most vulnerable to the effects of climate change despite the fact that we do little or nothing to contribute to its causes. However, Caricom is encouraged by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Nations remains firmly committed to the Paris Agreement. Our own commitment will never waver. Our existence is at stake.’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement: ‘We are deeply disappointed that the United States’ federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.’
A joint statement by the European Union and the African Union said: ‘Ahead of the COP23 in November they pledge to work together to finalise the Paris Agreement work programme. Climate change and renewable energy will figure on the agenda of the upcoming Africa-EU Summit in Abidjan on 29/30 November. This will be an opportunity to confirm the strong solidarity with those most vulnerable to climate change and the determination to work together to build strong and sustainable economies and societies resilient to climate change. The European Union and the African Union reaffirm their commitment to continuing to address the adverse effects of climate change on human and animal health, natural ecosystems and other social and economic impacts that threaten our developmental gains as a global community.’
South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement: ‘South Africa expresses its profound regret over the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which reflects the multilateral agreement to keep global temperature increase to well below 2°C. Historically, the US has contributed significantly to global emissions, and therefore has a moral obligation not only to lead in reducing emissions, but to support poorer economies in contributing to the global effort.’
A statement issued by a spokesperson for Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Clement Aduku said Nigeria believed that the Paris Accord was for the common good of humanity. The statement added: ‘The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wishes to express its disappointment with the decision of the United States of America to pull out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change.’
The CEO of the Uganda Environment Education Foundation Nicholas Ssenyonjo told New Vision newspaper that the US has been supporting Uganda to combat the effects of climate change and that this help was now in jeopardy following President Trump’s action. Mr Ssenyonjo said: “The US is a contributor to the green climate fund. So Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement will affect financing for countries like Uganda in the battle against climate change. The US is the biggest contributor to pollution globally. Pulling out of the Paris agreement means that they do not care about the effects of their pollution to third world countries like Uganda”.
During a trip to Singapore, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his country remained committed to the Paris Accord. He added: “The commitments we have made are in Australia’s interests. We are committed to ensuring that Australians have affordable and reliable energy and that we meet our emission reduction targets. There is a massive national and global interest in achieving that and maintaining energy, but you cannot be ideological about it. You have to be hard-headed”.
New Zealand’s Climate Change minister Paula Bennett said that she strongly disagreed with President Trump’s main reason for leaving the accord. She told Newstalk ZB: “It is really disappointing the US has chosen to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but New Zealand remains absolutely committed to it. Him saying that he is putting the US first is the one that I most strongly disagree with. I think, actually the US needs to be reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and there’s jobs in that, there’s in clean energy. And even from within the United States we can see some of those individual states really forward-leaning around what they’re doing on renewable energy and other initiatives. I’d take great heart from that as well”.
A Downing Street spokesman said in a statement: ‘President Trump called the Prime Minister this evening to discuss his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. The Prime Minister expressed her disappointment with the decision and stressed that the UK remained committed to the Paris Agreement, as she set out recently at the G7. She said that the Paris Agreement provides the right global framework for protecting the prosperity and security of future generations, while keeping energy affordable and secure for our citizens and businesses. The President made clear that the door remains open to future US involvement in the Agreement.’
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told the Washington Times that Pakistan was a strong supporter of the global Paris climate accord. He said: “There are issues on which Pakistan has its own positions regardless of what the U.S. position is”. Mr Chaudry said that Pakistan is at risk of flooding as Himalayan glaciers melt and added: “We supported the Paris talks. We are committed to it”.
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