Donald Trump’s victory is a great opening for global EU leadership on the sustainability agenda

donald-trump-pence

Photo from donaldJtrump.com, Donald Trump’s official campaign website (2016)

This article was written by one of our passionate readers, Mr Alexandros Liakopoulos. The opinions expressed within reflect only the write’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

Finally, after a long and extraordinary in multiple respects clash of the US political parties, the American people decided that Donald Trump should become the 45th POTUS. This result left most of people around the world in shock and awe, while some were driven to anxiety or even depression for the future to come. The central role of the US to the international world order doubled with the central role of the POTUS to the political system of the country – being the “commander in chief” and all – justifies analogue concerns and emotions of the global citizenry.

This becomes even more valid if one takes under consideration the campaign led by Mr. Trump and the remarks he has made on central issues for the interests of the global community. To mention maybe the most important one, in terms of long term implications for all living creatures of the planet and the ecosystem at large, which is no other than Climate Change, one cannot miss to observe that Mr. Trump classified it “a hoax” and a “China-driven agenda”. To make things worse, his whole team on climate, environment and energy related policies consists of climate-change skeptics, or even deniers, along with lobbyists for the fossil fuels and coal sector.

In the former category one finds Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who is the one having coined the term “global warming alarmism” and heads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a non-profits gathering challenging climate change altogether and opposing energy-rationing policies. In the latter category, the one of the lobbyists for environment-damaging energy and technologies, one finds Mike McKenna, President of MWR Strategies and external affairs specialist at the Energy Department during H.W. Bush administration. The clientele of Mr. Kenna includes Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co. and Competitive Power Ventures Inc., according to public disclosures.

On his part, during the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and has said he would “cancel” the Paris Agreement and boost fossil fuel production across the US public lands, sharing “the riches” to Americans.

With statements like the above and a team composed with people of similar beliefs and actions, it is no wonder that the participants at the two-weeks long Marrakesh UN Climate Change Conference, which started just one day before the US elections and just four days after the coming into force of the Paris Agreement, were alarmed with the American electoral results, despite the fact that some activists expressed their belief that “[Mr Trump] will not derail global climate effort”. As participant Mr. Alden Meyer, policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said and Reuters reported: “It’s clear Donald Trump is about to be one of the most powerful people in the world… but even he does not have the power to bend and change the laws of physics.”

Well, for sure it is so, yet this means not that a possible change of direction of the US executive towards climate change global policies cannot bear a devastating impact to the whole agenda of sustainability. Thus, there gets created a clear, wide and deep, vacuum in terms of global leadership, or of the lack of it, for the whole agenda. While the UN and the World Bank have the ownership of the agenda, they lack the necessary means to impose it through sanctions. As with all UN related agendas, political will and leadership are essential for the contributions and attachments of the parties.

In that sense, should the Trump-led USA make a U-turn on sustainability issues, the EU should step-up and take the responsibility of leading the world towards a sustainable, clean and promising future. To put it simply, if the EU does not do so, there is no other with the capacity or the will to act alike. In that case, the whole sustainability agenda may stagnate or find itself in a swamp. Should this happen, Mr. Trump will not only fail to “drain the swamp”, as his supporters’ slogan urged him to do during the campaign, but – most importantly – he will succeed in widening and deepening the real swamp of climate change, along with pulling all future generations to its bottom.

This having been said, the responsibility of the EU will neither be of less gravity nor of less importance if it misses to become the leader the whole world needs when it comes to climate change and sustainability: it will stamp its utter inability to become the power of reason and the de facto protagonist of ecological sensitivities and actions, erasing its humanitarian and ecological statutory statements and commitments. In that case, it will only become a matter of time for its citizens to find one more reason to be even less inspired and moved by the idea of European integration, especially after the severe economic, financial, social and political crises of the past few years that had commonly pushed it at the edge of chaos, along with their disrupting effects and consequences for the European political and social cohesion.

The young generation of European citizens, all older ones, the whole of the European business community, the institutional apparatus and the overall political order of the European continent may profit the most from a European leading role to the sustainability agenda of the UN. Or, they may also suffer greatly from its inability to rise to the challenge of international leadership.

In that sense, it is very positive indeed to witness that the congratulatory and invitational joint letter of the President of the EU Council and of the EU Commission, Mr. Tusk and Mr. Junker, to the US President-elect Mr. Trump, the day after his election was confirmed, included climate change as one of the “unprecedented challenges” we all commonly face. But for the EU to prove that it ‘puts its money where its mouth is’, as our fellow Americans would have it, follow-up actions should be undertaken irrespectively to the content of the response of the Trump administration.

Making the choice of and setting course for sustainability leadership, the EU will not only prepare itself to become the indisputable protagonist of the world towards a more promising future, but it will also put one more brick towards the direction of sustaining its very self against the pressures of populism and political extravagance that thrives in times of crises, of time of complete transformation more accurately, as the one we are passing through.

Therefore, for the EU to go greener than ever and to pull everybody else to the same direction are not only matters of responsibility towards its citizens, the rest of the world and the future at large: it is a matter of survival per se in the very here and now. In a time when governments around the world have grasped the importance of sustainable development and businesses adopt Triple Bottom Line strategies, adding to their economic targets social and environmental ones, lots of strategic advantages can be created for the leader of the whole agenda, while their benefits can be spread internally so to boost economic and social prosperity and political stability on the one hand, and externally, to the rest of the world on the other hand, so to craft the better, updated and upgraded common ecosystem we all live in. For without a sustainable ecosystem no future can be foreseen and in no-future land strategic advantages and disadvantages seize to have any importance whatsoever.

Any situation, no matter how positive or negative seems in the first place, can be grasped and understood from multiple angles. Mr. Trump’s coming into office may seem like a great disaster for all environmental sustainability oriented thinkers, activists, scholars, pundits and political actors. Or, on the other hand, it may also be seen like a great opportunity for a new leader of the sustainability agenda to rise. Hopefully, the EU will grasp this opportunity and all European citizens and businesses will participate in the greatest enterprise ever done: saving our future from our past. If we commonly fail in doing so, we will commonly pay the price. Accordingly, if we commonly succeed, we will commonly collect the gains. Which way will we travel?

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