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Editorial: Withdrawal from Paris pact a foolish judgment that loses the world’s trust

It is a thoughtless act to abandon a responsibility to lead measures against global warming.


U.S. President Donald Trump has announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He has placed priority on inward-looking election campaign pledges such as the recovery of the coal industry over issues that require a united international community.


Despite the fact that the leaders of such nations as Japan, Germany and France tried to persuade Trump at the recent meetings of the Group of Seven advanced nations held in Taormina, Italy, to stay with the accord, Trump did not change his mind. There are differences between the United States and Europe over free trade and policies on Russia. It is inevitable that the divisions will spread further.


In her telephone talks with Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May criticized him, saying she was “disappointed.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said via Twitter “the decision was regrettable.” These are natural responses.


The most important element in the fight against global warming is international cooperation to reduce emissions throughout the world. The Paris accord, in which all participating countries join together, is a framework that embodies such cooperation. It was reasonable for Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto to remark, “[Trump] turned his back on the wisdom of humanity.”


The United States, the world’s second largest emitter after China, also withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. Trump should recognize the reality that this foolish judgment will destroy trust in the United States and weaken its international leadership.


Trump’s views unfounded


As a reason for withdrawing, Trump insisted that the Paris accord is a set of unfair rules that undermine the competitiveness of the United States. This is nothing but a pointless statement.


Compared with the Kyoto Protocol, which obliged only developed countries to reduce their emissions, under the Paris accord, which came into effect in 2016, each country voluntarily decides its own reduction target. In light of this mechanism, it is impossible to be “unfair” in comparison to other countries.


Trump is skeptical about the concept of global warming. He even said once that the concept of global warming “was created by and for the Chinese.” This assertion totally ignores the scientific conclusion that global warming is progressing due to human activity.


It is also problematic that the U.S. president is caught up in old ways of thinking that say that measures against global warming run counter to economic growth. The global trend is to balance the two elements. A lot of employment is born from related industries such as solar cells and electric vehicles.


In the first place, the main cause of the decline of the coal industry in the United States is not measures countering global warming. It is because inexpensive shale gas has prevailed.


The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord will be finalized in 2020 at the earliest due to procedural requirements. However, there will be adverse effects well before this, such as the suspension of financial assistance from the United States to developing countries.


It is vital for Japan and other countries to steadily proceed with efforts to reduce emissions so that the Paris accord does not lose its teeth while trying to urge the United States to change its mind.

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