Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / World Watch

It's time for the US, as a responsible power, to plug green gaps

By Wen Zongduo | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-11-09 09:12
Share - WeChat
A combination picture shows a view at Gas Works Park on a clear day on July 20, 2018 (L), and the same view shrouded by air pollution from wildfires on Sept 12, 2020 (R), in Seattle, US, in two still images obtained from two social media videos.  [Photo/Agencies]

Six-year-old Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson and many of her peers may have been dismayed on Nov 4, when the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change took effect.

The girl witnessed the US entering into the agreement on April 22,2016, Earth Day. Her grandfather, then US secretary of state John Kerry, signed the US entry document at the United Nations headquarters in New York with her on his lap. Kerry said his granddaughter represented future generations.

Sadly, these generations are forced to encounter a disgrace for the US and a disservice for humankind, one year after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that "the United States submitted formal notification of its withdrawal" to the UN on Nov 4, 2019.

Thus, the world's most powerful nation becomes the first and only one among 189 signatories to disavow its pledge, leaving a trail of ignominious carbon footprints in history. Even if the wrong is corrected by some new US administration later, the stain may prove hard to remove.

"The US is a big problem now," former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said after US President Donald Trump announced the intention to quit the Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017. "He is standing on the wrong side of history," Ban told reporters at a London peace walk in October 2019.

Yet for years, neither Ban's warnings nor complaints from other world leaders were heard. Pleas of US scientists were ignored and mounting proof of ravaging US wildfires and melting icebergs was dismissed. The US administration goes along headstrong, and goes alone.

No doubt the US has been the world's top cumulative contributor to greenhouse gas emissions as an industrialized nation, a historic top emitter of greenhouse gas before being overtaken by China recently, and among the top per capita greenhouse gas producers.

Some US functionaries claim the agreement puts excessive burden on their country, but facts speak otherwise. Under the Paris Agreement, the US pledged to cut emissions about 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025-far from the highest rate among nations. Its share of $3 billion in donations to the United Nations Green Climate Fund was dwarfed by its trillions of dollars spent on lethal weaponry.

The US has chosen to shirk its responsibility as a nation and a power, only to depreciate its own repute and cause serious damage to global climate efforts.

Moreover, in recent years, the US has loosened at least 120 environmental rules, which makes Pompeo's statement "to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change" not only pompous, but disingenuous.

By flouting an international pact, the US is telling the world not to trust it as it once again breaks promises and sheds due responsibilities.

Instead, it again pronounces it is putting its own interests above the international public good. It seems that any international norm and pact must satiate the US own' interests first, or they would be reduced to random disposal anytime it wants.

Even worse, the unwholesome precedent threatens just global environmental governance, the very basis of human livelihood.

When US dereliction goes unrepented and unscathed and its emissions remain unchecked with no consequences, the efforts of other nations together are countered and injured.

Such US irresponsibility depreciates the potency of the international norm for all members of the global community, diminishes the morale and unity of humanity against new common threats, and weakens an international framework for a green Earth.

Developing countries are direct victims, with less funds for emission reduction and a lack of environmental know-how. Particularly precarious are dozens of island nations, where people are counting on global endeavors to check the rising sea levels that threaten their homes.

It is noticeable that also on Nov 4, US President-elect Joe Biden tweeted "in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it".

If things proceed as contemplated, the US is to finally assume what it should as a responsible power and qualified member of the UN-championed global community.

Even when young Isabelle and friends are appeased, the US needs to ratify and enact a reentry into the Paris Agreement before taking serious means to meet its pledge. Afterward, deeply divided partisan politics may keep casting a cloud over US promises to the world every four years.

A relief here is that more people are realizing a stand against global trends cannot last. US politicians choosing to play with international norms are playing with fire, likely to be burned with enduring disgrace.

The author is a journalist at China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349