22:17 GMT16 January 2021
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    The Real Significance of US Withdrawal From the Paris Climate Accord

    Level Talk with John Harrison
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    This year’s G20 is already underway, and by all accounts, there is a serious disagreement between the US leadership and European leaders over the Paris Climate Accord. Is this a turning point in EU-US relations?

    Professor Michael Vandenbergh from the Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville Tennessee, and Dr. Richard Wellings, Researcher at the Institute of Economic Affairs, an influential think tank in London, participate in the program.

    Professor Vandenbergh feels that the Trump administration is pretty serious about pulling out of the Accord, as Trump has put a whole team in place to implement this, despite the fact that there are some voices within the administration such as that of the Secretary of State, who are against the idea. What is interesting, Professor Vandenbergh points out, is that “over 50% of the population within the United States believes that humans are causing climate change, and you are seeing a huge reaction against climate change from many corporations and other businesses.”

    Nevertheless, even for an administration known for its U-turns, Professor Vandenbergh does not think that there will be any going back. Dr. Wellings sees the US administration’s policies in terms of an attempt to fight back against the EU elite’s policies. “Because Trump has already betrayed his voter base on his foreign policy by first saying he wasn’t going to intervene and now saying he is going to intervene, and now having a very interventionist foreign policy, he sees this as being one of the few areas where he can actually fulfil his promises, and if he does go down this [a la Accord] route then it is going to hurt particular industries quite hard, like the coal industry which he did promise to save…”

    Professor Vandenbergh says that US domestic energy production is not going to be that severely affected by the policies of this US administration, neither are they going to affect the world’s environment very much. Dr. Wellings says “the US accounts for only about 14% of greenhouse gas emissions, whereas China accounts for about 30%.” The US has never being a trailblazer in advocating climate change programs, so “there is nothing particularly new here” Dr. Wellings says. Professor Vandenbergh explains that in the US the decision of which source of energy is used, is in the hands of the utility companies rather than the government, and they have already made long-term decisions which are not going to change because of Trump’s new policies.

    The change over from climate change leadership from the US to China in Europe is reflective of the shift of the world’s economic core to the Far East, Dr. Wellings says. “China is obviously going to exploit the current divisions between the EU and the US, trying to further this shift to the East, and build closer relations between itself and Eastern Europe.” In a way, Dr. Wellings says, the EU and the communist leadership in China have something in common, as both have top-down, technocratic views of how policies should be implemented. “This is very much an elite-driven program,” Dr. Wellings says, “It is not something that poor working-class families are campaigning for; for hugely more expensive heating bills and transport costs.”

    In the second part of the program, the issue of whether the US leaving the Paris Accord will be used to galvanize support against the US in Europe is discussed. Dr. Wellings says that there is a faction in the EU leadership which sees this as a chance to drive public opinion away from supporting US policies. These people also see the opportunity to create the space for the creation of an EU army. “This is just one of the anti-American trends we see in Europe,” Dr. Wellings says.

    The current attitude of Americans towards Europeans and Europe is discussed towards the end of the program. In conclusion, the participants of this program do not feel that America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is tremendously important. What is important is a shift in focus from the US to China inside Europe, and this is in part due to the US’s climate change denial policies.

    We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com.

    Paris Climate Deal, G20 summit in Hamburg, Donald Trump
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