The results of the American presidential elections have taken the world by surprise. Here at this year’s international climate change summit, COP22, there is an equal if not greater sense of shock as to what this means for the future of the negotiations. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, and has even gone so far as to describe it as a fabrication “by the Chinese.” His cavalier approach to climate change on the campaign trail has made the entire community of climate activists deeply concerned what he will do come January. If he follows through on his campaign pledge to pull out of the Paris Agreement, it could create a global catastrophe for the countries that have worked for over 20 years to create this first international climate change accord.
The prospects for strong climate action have made a precipitous turn following yesterday’s news. Yet climate change is of such geopolitical importance that no single politician will be able to completely derail the future of climate negotiations. Climate change is a challenge that has to be attacked on a local, national and international scale as well as on multiple fronts, including mitigation, adaptation, and financial support for vulnerable countries already experiencing climate impacts. It will be a test of leadership for all countries across the world.
Donald Trump can try to dismantle national and international climate policy but he cannot stop the trend towards a clean energy future. In fact, if he wants to follow through on providing the thousands of jobs he has promised, he will have to support the green energy revolution that is already happening. Furthermore, he cannot stop the movement of people who will mobilize to fight his policies if he attempts to leave the Paris Agreement and reverse U.S. climate action. While we have encountered a considerable set back, I believe the climate change movement will triumph.