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"America First!" The Americans are out – or aren’t they?

Exactly one week has passed since President Donald Trump announced the US exit from the Paris Climate Agreement. In the first few days the prophecies, which saw an end to the agreement (and the world), dominated the media outlets, but now a more realistic classification is possible. A look at the reaction of the world community makes it clear that the agreement is far from being at its end.

The image "Oh America" by Gee Vaucher became an internet meme after Trump's election victoryThe image "Oh America" by Gee Vaucher became an internet meme after Trump's election victory

The outrage over the US exit from the Paris Climate Agreement is still great. "President Trump's departure from the Paris Agreement is a blow to the whole of humanity and he is weakening the US itself," commented Klaus Milke, CEO of non-profit organization Germanwatch. However, the first shock has been shaken off and given way – in the truest sense of the word – to an energy-filled spirit of optimism. The "wake-up call for other nations", hoped for by German Ifo Institute for Economic Research, has been heard by more and more people.

The World Reacts with Unity

The European Union was the first one to react and positioned itself behind the leadership of France, Italy and Germany, rejecting Trump’s demands for a renegotiation to achieve a better deal for the US. Subsequently, Germany, the largest industry powerhouse of the EU, first announced a stronger cooperation with India in terms of climate protection, in order to subsequently bring in the Chinese. At the same time, both emerging countries were still considered potential candidates to leave the agreement.

However, they are now ready to assume a different role in the game for a better future: they want to take the lead in climate protection and renewable energies. Both areas promise growth and offer economic opportunities and jobs. "Anyone who ignores all this, is blind to reality," Milke makes clear. Even today more people are actively working in the field of climate protection technologies than in the fossil energy industry, as figures from the US Department of Energy show for 2016.

It’s Getting Lonely at the Top

Many Americans, however, do not want to go down with their President. Thus, Elon Musk, entrepreneur and founder of Tesla, followed up on his announcement and ended his consultancy work for the President. "Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” he tweeted.

Robert Iger, CEO of the Disney group, immediately followed his example and ended his work as an advisor for Trump.

Reactions went as far as the highest diplomatic circles when US ambassador for China David Rank (see picture on the left) exited his job after 27 years in a surprise move.


Pittsburgh Is Angry – and Rebellious

But reactions also came from places far more down the ladder. As Trump had said during his exit speech in his well-known tone "I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris!", he angered city officials. Pittsburgh's Mayor, William Peduto, hastened to point out that his city had voted 80 percent for Hillary Clinton. He then signed an Executive Order committing the city to the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition, the energy supply of Pittsburgh will be completely converted to renewable energies by 2035.

The fact that Trump mentioned Pittsburgh at all in his speech has historical reasons: Pittsburgh is known as the "Steel City" in the so-called 'Rust Belt' of America, where traditionally much coal and oil was mined. However, the steel crisis in the 1970s was followed by an economic decline in the area, from which many cities have not yet recovered. In Pittsburgh, on the other hand, great efforts have been made over the past few years to create structural change, and the city is now regarded as a role-model – a fact which has not yet reached Donald Trump, obviously.

Grassroots and Lots of Money

There are other areas of the United States wich have long been regarded as progressive. The new 'grassroots movement' in environmental protection is led by California and New York, whose governments have already launched comprehensive measures in the area of climate protection and will not to be stopped by Trump. More and more cities are now following the example of Bill de Blasio (Mayor of New York) and are contributing to voluntary climate alliances.

They are supported by large US companies which have also imposed themselves voluntary commitments. The entrepreneur and former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg currently coordinates and finances the new ‘U.S. Climate Alliance’ which can be joined by state and municipal governments. “Through a partnership among American cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris agreement process,” he said. “The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it.”

Many Americans want the energy transition to continue. (Image: AWEA)

Katrin Radtke
US, Paris Climate Agreement, EU, China, India, energy transition, climate change

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