By William Foley
Trump’s decision to remove the US from the Paris climate agreement shows that he represents one of the most dangerous and reactionary elements of US capitalism. It signals that his administration does not even seek to meet the minimal targets set by Obama when his government negotiated the deal.
This should not, however, encourage us to have any illusions about the Paris agreement in the first place. It was a very successful public relations operation for the governments in the major capitalist powers – then-French president, Francois Hollande, described the accord as “an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement.”
A flawed agreement
But the agreement was neither ambitious nor binding. The actual targets committed to under the deal will, according to the UN Environmental Programme, lead to an increase of three degrees in global temperatures, far more than the agreement’s stated minimum target of two degrees. Further, the targets which countries agree to are not binding, and there is no mechanism to enforce them.
In fact, the US negotiation team almost derailed the agreement at the last minute when they discovered that a particular article of the treaty stated that developed countries “shall” enact economy-wide emission reduction targets, rather than that they “should” do so. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, said that “The bottom line is that when I looked at that, I said, ‘We cannot do this and we will not do this.”
It is unsurprising that big oil companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips backed the agreement, as did several of the largest coal companies in America, such as Peabody Energy Corp, and Cloud Peak Energy Inc. The agreement protects them from growing criticism, while allowing them to go about business as usual with sights cheerily set on increased carbon consumption at a global level.
Climate change denial
So Trump could have just massively diluted the already weak commitments. Instead he went against the advice of many energy companies, as well as the counsel of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is a former CEO of ExxonMobil. Probably the vulgar and attention-seeking character of the gesture appealed to him, but he was also certainly influenced by outright climate-deniers in his circle, such as his appointee to the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt.
Ultimately, we should reject the agenda set by the establishment media, the think tanks, and other curators of public opinion. We should not be forced to choose between utter climate-denial on one hand, and, on the other hand, a hobbled, ineffectual policy pushed by the liberal wing of the ruling class, with backing from more the more marketing-savvy carbon producers.
In reality, action needs to be taken to immediately deal with the planet-destroying effect of capitalism. Capitalists who have investments in companies that produce fossil fuels, that tear up huge sections of the rainforests, and that pollute the air and water that people breathe and drink, need to make a profit on their investment and will do anything to protect these profits, and the social system which creates them. Environmentally destructive companies should be taken into public ownership as part of a democratic socialist plan of production and their resources redeployed to create sustainable and environmentally friendly activities that meet our needs and desires.