Cox: Touch of Donald Trump Redux hangs over COP26

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to a member of the news media after speaking on Jan.

GLASGOW, Nov. 9 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Donald Trump did his best to free America from global efforts to combat climate change. The ex-president is not actually present at COP26, the major UN climate conference in Glasgow, but his presence is palpable. And not just because he owns a Scottish golf club not far away that hosted the Indonesian delegation. A possible return to the White House is hanging over the deliberations.

As nations make long-term commitments to reduce their carbon footprint, banks make their balance sheets in support, and multinational corporations outdo each other with brilliant promises to make their businesses cleaner and greener, many COP26 attendees wonder if Trump will run for the presidency will return in 2024. Their concern is that he will try to undo many of the agreed-upon things to prevent the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

These fears are justified. For starters, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement shortly after filling the Oval Office, which was reached at an earlier COP in 2015. Then he set about breaking numerous environmental codes and regulations at home, shouting loudly for hydrocarbons. On the sidelines of the 2018 Climate Shindig in Poland, he even tried to stage a glittering pro-coal event.

The hope among business leaders and policymakers in Glasgow is that things are too far to relax should Republican Trump win the American elections in three years’ time and the pledges of President Joe Biden, who is both his Democratic successor and heir its predecessor would be break. That should give greater urgency to the negotiations in the second and final week of COP26, as if the end of mankind were not enough motivation.

The private sector has little chance of a slight relapse if Trump becomes the first commander in chief since Grover Cleveland to hold two non-consecutive terms. The world’s largest banks and corporations bake net zero ambitions into their strategies, incentive structures, and the composition of their balance sheets and investment portfolios, mainly because customers, investors, and employees insist that they do it, not politics.

“Climate change is a political issue. Inequality is a political issue. And as a leader, you need to take a stand on these things. However, we try to hold onto things that are close to our own business, ”said Alan Jope, chairman of the board of directors of $ 135 billion consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR.L), which aims to achieve net zero nirvana by 2039. Climate change is important to us because a world that is on fire or under water is a terrible place for Unilever to do business. “

Given the possibility of a Trump win in 2024 after a string of electoral setbacks for Biden’s party in last week’s state and local elections – particularly the Virginia governorate – American leaders, including Biden himself and Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, are taking additional steps Efforts to convince delegates in Scotland that the United States is serious about fighting climate change. This reflects widespread suspicion that Washington will be able to keep its word, even if its many multinational corporations are largely in favor of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

In a speech on Monday, Obama described Trump’s term in office as “four years of active hostility towards climate science”. This followed Biden’s promise the week before that “the United States will not just be back at the table, but hopefully lead by the force of our example,” adding, “My administration is working overtime to show our commitment to the climate Action and not words are ”.

When images surfaced that appeared to show Biden closing his eyes during the conference, Trump slammed his followers with an email that said, “Even Biden couldn’t stand hearing so much about the Global Warming Hoax , the seventh largest hoax in America, closely followed by the 2020 presidential election fraud, Russia, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, impeachment hoax # 1, impeachment hoax # 2 and of course the Mueller report’s finding that no collusion was made. It is fair to say that Trump’s characterization of global warming is not widely accepted by the tens of thousands of COP delegates.

This is not just a case of ignorant American domestic politics, however. US moral leadership, combined with economic power, is crucial to assist climate-damaging latecomers like China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia to accelerate their carbon reduction goals. If America is not on board, it will be difficult for the remaining industrialized nations, for example, to get China to phase out coal more quickly.

But it’s also about money. One of the key announcements in Glasgow was an 8.5 billion package. The deal, signed after months of high-level diplomacy between Germany, France, Great Britain, the European Union and Washington, could prevent up to 1.5 gigatons of emissions over the next 20 years .

The South Africa accord, with strong US financial support, is seen as a blueprint to entice other poor countries like Indonesia and Vietnam to increase their hydrocarbon skipping ambitions. This increases the urgency of finalizing some of these deals with committed funds ahead of the 2024 US elections.

Even if Trump runs and wins, American attitudes to tackling climate change have changed since he pulled out of the Paris Agreement in 2017. There is also increasing bipartisan support for certain measures such as tax credits to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy. And many states have isolated their efforts to reduce carbon emissions from federal politics. That is what David Livingston, senior adviser to the President’s US special envoy on climate, John Kerry, said in a panel discussion on hydrogen moderated by Breakingviews in Glasgow last week.

“One of the hidden perks of … the past four years is that the way much of the United States has responded to the lack of leadership on the global stage under the Trump administration has been to raise these types of antibodies at the state and local levels and “corporate governance that we are not trying to replace in the Biden administration,” said Livingston. “We are trying to reinforce and empower (them) because we know we need a diverse set of allies and guidelines to move this forward.”

So while there is a strong whiff of Trump persuasion over the Glasgow trial, there is also a feeling that with effort and perhaps a little luck, the current US momentum will be sustained.

Follow @ rob1cox on Twitter

Arrangement by George Hay and Karen Kwok

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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