By Rajendra Shende
Within 2 hours of the declaration from across the Atlantic, the newly elected French President, Emmanuel Macron, tweeted 24 times. On 1st June, when US President Trump declared that he is breaking away from Paris Climate Agreement, this ‘breaking news’ sent frenzied waves amidst media across the globe. But newly elected Macron was ‘calme, prudent et reflechi’—which translates to calm, careful and thoughtful.
Traditionally, French Presidents do not speak English in public. However, many of Macron’s tweets were in the dominant language of English. Later that night, believing his tweets did not fully reflect his views, he went on French national TV, to address the Americans in English. It was streamed live from his office in Elysee Palace for about 3 minutes just before midnight. This speech, thought of as unprecedented in the French Presidential history, was a means to console the Americans.
Macron’s message to the Americans
Macron reiterated his earlier invitation to the Americans made in a video message three weeks back. He spoke, “To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland.” He continued, “I call on them: come and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.” It sounded like the French wanted to welcome the elite American ‘climate refugees’.
Reminiscent of the speeches made during World War II, by American Presidents to suffering nations and French resistance fighters, Macron’s speech on climate change solidarity that cut across national borders. “Tonight, I wish to tell the United States, France believes in you — the world believes in you,” Macron said. He concluded his address by saying, “We will succeed, because we are fully committed, because wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make Our Planet Great Again.” President Trump, however, responded to his tweet with the monotonous, ‘Make America Great Again!’.
The American case in point
While the war of tweets filled the cyberspace with fireworks, former American President Obama’s twitter-handlers were quiet and even looked ‘retired’ with catalogue old tweets of the month of May. There was no response from Obama-camp regarding the Trump-camp allegations on the Obama’s ratification of this Agreement being ‘unconstitutional’.
Apart from the presumptuous reason of unconstitutionality, the prime reasons for breaking off from the treaty were the loss of American jobs, burden on American taxpayers and the loss of American sovereignty. President Trump rejected the tirelessly negotiated and hard-fought international treaty that was otherwise on its deathbed, ready for cremation. In short, the real but hidden reason was that the Paris Climate Agreement was not an ‘American treaty’.
America’s stance: Nation first
These pro-American reasons clearly defy the basic tenets of international environmental negotiations and diplomacy. These fundamentals were captured by Prime Minister Modi in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 25th September 2015, when he categorically stated that, “History shows that humanity has progressed when it has collectively risen to its obligation.” Collective rise against impending global catastrophes like climate change explicitly puts national self-interest at a secondary status.
A factual track of history since 1945, interestingly shows that the Trump-regime is not the first American leadership to disregard UN’s International Treaties. Also, climate agreement is not the only accord that the USA has turned back on. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1991), the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), the Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty (1997), Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change (1997), the Ottawa Land Mine Treaty (1997), and the International Criminal Court (1998) are just a few recent examples—the entire list is much longer.
The American way for a global approach, whether demonstrated by Democrats or Republicans, is starkly evident when some of its own national agreements cast in international treaties, are refused to be signed. It is a legacy of the mindset of the American thought process, that would take much longer to transform into a truly global alliance to address global challenges.
“America First is likely to mean a further denigration of international law and process, to the further detriment of America’s national security and long-term interests,” said Jeff Sachs, Harvard-educated Economist, Director of Earth Institute and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General. According to him, USA is losing its democratic values, competitive edge and international stewardship.
A blessing in disguise for India
Here lies the opportunity for India to fill that void and take this much-needed leadership in its truest sense. Many feel that China has already begun its quest to seal the gap, but China’s perceived long-term interests appear to converge and mould towards to the same American syndrome of “Country First”.
India stands apart with no territorial claims to expand its national interest. It is on right track to develop and implement internationally inclusive policies to tackle climate change. New York Times recently concluded in its editorial comments that India, the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is showing ‘astonishing’ progress in clean energy which is ‘worth celebrating’.
Within a year, India was able to reduce the cost of solar energy by 50 percent through an auction process. In fact, the cost of solar electricity is 24 percent less than the average cost of electricity from a coal-fired power plant. India is showing the world that coal could be history and the Sun is future. Worldwide, investment in renewable power capacity has long overtaken investments in fossil fuel power capacity. In 2016 alone, the world invested $227 bn in clean energy, compared to $114 bn in fossil fuels. Job opportunities in renewables are 50 percent more than the traditional energy production.
Modi and Macron: An optimistic partnership
Now is the time to seize the opportunity to seal the abyss created by Trump. The Macron-Modi summit in France is indeed that ‘aha moment’. Both leaders can demonstrate that our mission should be ‘Planet First’. Both the countries launched the International Solar Alliance of countries that get sunlight in a majority of the days in a year, two years back. Both the countries have balanced faith in the useful deployment of nuclear energy and are ambitiously and ardently committed to the Paris Climate Agreement. Both believe that “There is no Plan B for the Paris Climate Agreement because there is no Planet B for the Earth’s citizens”.
We can expect showers of tweets from both Modi and Macron in coming days. Hope that would help breaking tweeting silence from the former President Obama at least, if not mind-changing tweets from White House.
Rajendra Shende is the Chairman at TERRE Policy Centre, an IIT-Alumnus and former Director of UNEP.
Featured Image Credits: The Atlantic
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