The View From Asia

An ultimately self-defeating decision

Asia News Network commentators condemn US President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Here are excerpts of their views on his decision and the responses from world leaders.

'Rejecting the wisdom of humanity'

Editorial
The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

With United States President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, he has placed priority on inward-looking election campaign pledges, such as the recovery of the coal industry, over issues that require a united international community.

Despite attempts by leaders of nations, such as Japan, Germany and France, to persuade Mr Trump at recent meetings of the Group of Seven nations in Italy to stay with the accord, Mr Trump did not change his mind. In her telephone talks with Mr Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May criticised him, saying she was "disappointed". German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said via Twitter "the decision was regrettable".

The most important element in the fight against global warming is international cooperation to reduce emissions. The Paris accord is a framework that embodies such cooperation. As Environment Minister Koichi Yamamotoremarked: "Trump has turned his back on the wisdom of humanity."

The US, the world's second-largest emitter after China, also withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. Mr Trump should recognise this foolish judgment will destroy trust in the US and weaken its international leadership. Mr Trump's rationale for his withdrawal - that the Paris accord set unfair rules that undermined US competitiveness - is entirely baseless.

Compared to the Kyoto Protocol, which obliged only developed countries to reduce their emissions, under the Paris accord, which came into effect last year, each country voluntarily decides its own reduction target. In the light of this mechanism, it is impossible to be "unfair" in comparison to other countries.

It is also problematic that the US President is caught up in old ways of thinking that say that measures against global warming run counter to economic growth.


Protesters in front of the White House objecting to US President Donald Trump's rejection of the Paris climate accord. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It is vital for Japan and other nations to proceed to reduce emissions, so that the Paris accord does not lose its teeth, while trying to urge the US to change its mind.


'No need to overreact'

Wang Xuedong
China Daily, China

United States President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was not unexpected, given his criticism of the pact during his presidential campaign, as well as the Republican Party's opposition.

And since the US' withdrawal may not affect the agreement as much as some fear - as its enforcement is flexible - we should not overreact to Mr Trump's decision.

Of real importance is the fact that the US Congress ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, which actually has a binding force. As a party to the convention, the US is legally bound to send representatives to participate in the UN climate change conferences every year.

Besides, the US federal government cannot prevent its states from taking part in the global fight against climate change, and those states can play a more constructive role in intensifying the fight.

The actual effect of the US withdrawal from the climate pact lies in slowing the US economy's pace of shifting to a new energy mode and using new energy sources - which offers a good opportunity to China and other countries to expedite their energy transformation.


A blinkered approach

Martin Khor
The Star, Malaysia

Just as disturbing as Mr Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was his speech justifying it. He never acknowledged the seriousness or even the existence of the global climate change crisis. He lamented that the Paris accord would displace United States jobs, mentioning coal in particular, while ignoring the jobs in renewable energy that would increase manifold if the US tackled the climate crisis seriously.

Mr Trump was more interested in reviving the sunset coal sector than in the promise of the fast-developing renewable energy industries. He was miserly towards poor countries, which are receiving only a fraction of what they were promised for climate action.

He complained the US is asked to do more than others, when, in fact, it has the highest emissions per capita and its pledges are significantly lower than Europe's.

Since Mr Trump has already made clear the US wants to leave the pact, and no longer subscribes to its emissions pledges, nor will it meet its US$3 billion (S$4.15 billion) pledge on the Green Climate Fund, it would be strange to enable the country to still negotiate with the same status as other members that remain committed to their pledges.


No more at top table on climate

Editorial
The Statesman, India

The irony could not have been more bitter. On the eve of World Environment Day, which fell on Monday, the United States emitted a distressing signal, and a phase of isolation is dangerously real.

The truism that has been overlooked is that US President Donald Trump cannot withdraw the US from the world, let alone earth to which the world belongs.

In attempting to link climate change to foreign policy, the US President has immediately suffered a setback - world leaders have rejected his plea that the climate deal be re-negotiated "on terms that are fair to the US".

No, it can't... and this message must be reverberating across the US. Beyond that international snub must lie the more critical signal from world leaders - having withdrawn from the Paris accord, America shall not dictate terms of engagement on global warming matters.

Rightly has it been remarked that Mr Trump has posited his country on the wrong side of history. The world looks forward to a measure of forward movement... even if Mr Trump doesn't.


  • The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner, Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 news media entities. For more, see www.asianews.network.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'An ultimately self-defeating decision'. Print Edition | Subscribe