India and China should be at forefront of ‘eco-civilisation’ push – Financial Times

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord has been met with angst from Western allies, the media and the foreign policy establishment, who have framed the move as the US president’s abandonment of American global leadership in pursuit of his nationalistic “America First” foreign policy.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that the US has never been a leader on the issue of climate change, nor the wider question of sustainability.

After former US president Jimmy Carter worried that “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption”, Ronald Reagan criticised the whole idea that constrained resources could impact the economy. He said that there were “no such things as limits to growth”, and it was not “what’s inside the Earth that counts, but what’s inside our minds and hearts”.

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Despite the efforts of Bill Clinton and his vice-president Al Gore on the Kyoto protocol, George W Bush abandoned the treaty once he took office. Barack Obama did what he could with climate negotiations in Copenhagen and Paris, and it was only in his second term that he made the deliberate decision to pursue a less stringent agreement to avoid passing a treaty through a polarised and obstructionist Congress. Mr Trump’s action on climate change is thus not a break from the past, but a continuation of it.

The US has rarely joined global agreements that it did not have a hand in drafting, and has even rejected those in which it was actively involved. The US is not a member of the International Criminal Court. It has not ratified the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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