Last week I discussed how climate hawks could fight the environmental assault coming from the incoming Trump administration. One avenue requires help from other countries, who might threaten to slap carbon tariffs on the U.S. if Trump withdrew from the global Paris climate agreement.
Since then, several officials from other countries have fired that warning shot. The New York Times reported:
In Mexico, which is already preparing for a newly adversarial relationship with an American president who has threatened to build a wall along the border, government officials said they have begun considering the idea of a carbon tariff.
Canada, the United States’ largest trading partner, is also discussing a tariff. Some Canadian provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, already have carbon tax policies that include fees imposed on fossil-fueled energy generated across provincial borders.
“I see that extending across the Canadian border if the U.S. pulls out of Paris,” said Lisa DeMarco, a senior partner with DeMarco, Allan, a Toronto-based climate law firm that advises Canadian provinces and international businesses.
“If you want to sell your goods in Canada, you’d have to meet the same emissions standards,” she said.
In France, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president who is campaigning to hold that office again, suggested this week that the European Union impose a carbon tariff on American imports if Washington withdraws.
Sarkozy didn't win his party's primary over the weekend. But nevertheless, leading signatories of Paris pact are making clear that they will defend it, instead of meekly letting Trump unravel it.
Just today, Trump backed away from a firm commitment to abandoning Paris, telling the New York Times, "I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it."
Of course, he still may do it. But the world isn't going to let him unilaterally wreck the planet.
This is a reminder that even imperfect, compromise agreements can serve crucial purposes.
When Paris was struck, there was plenty of criticism that the targets were too weak to resolve the crisis. The signatories were well aware of that insufficiency. But they correctly concluded that what was most important was to establish the understanding that the world would work together to protect climate, and establish a framework for doing so that would allow for needed adjustments as they go forward.
If the nations of the world walked away from the table because Paris was not perfect, there would be no common understanding, and no ability for a coordinated response to Trump's reckless vindictiveness toward global governance.
Thankfully, President Barack Obama remained committed to an international agreement after the 2009 setback in Copenhagen. And thankfully, Secretary of State John Kerry had the diplomatic flexibility to craft a delicate agreement among nations with significantly diverging interests.
Because of their leadership, the climate might be able to withstand what havoc Trump may wreak.