President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is a callous dismissal of the plight of the world in short-sighted favour of US fossil fuel interests – and he's unrepentant about that.
But America has always been self-serving and reluctant when it comes to multinational deals. Ever since the American revolution, successive administrations have preferred an isolationist stance above giving any form of power away to others; trade is the only sector in which the US is a willing party to global deals, and even then it tries to hold the whip-hand.
So while becoming a signatory to the Paris Agreement was a welcome anomaly, it was always likely to be subject to the whims of change in government.
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For many Americans, the fact the US is now the only country in the world which will not be a party to the landmark agreement is something to celebrate rather than commiserate; Trump wins voters with his appeals to putting "America First" because to a large extent American interest stops at their borders. The rest of the world can go hang, if it "makes America great again".
Fortunately this is not a sentiment shared much by other nations. Even China, Russia, and India, all critical of some aspects of the agreement, have so far stuck to the script of an all-embracing pact – though there are fears a US withdrawal will cause China to re-litigate the "rich vs poor" emissions argument to reduce its own commitments (as a supposedly "poorer" country).
On the other hand, the UK, Canada, France and Mexico, amongst others, have strengthened their targets by moving to cut all coal-fired power to zero by 2030, in stark contrast to Trump's broad pledge to ramp up coal and other fossil-fuel-powered generation.
This is an important international initiative because coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, generates around 40 per cent of all global electricity.
Yet outside the rhetoric of the Trump-led Federal government, States, cities, and businesses across the US have embarked on a concerted surge of green-tech power capacity.
The US actually reduced greenhouse gas emissions by around 13 per cent from 2005-2017, largely thanks to the rise of renewable generation and the retirement of coal-fired stations.
An example is Texas, the largest producer and consumer of energy amongst US states. Last year wind generation (22 per cent) surpassed coal (21 per cent), although natural gas (44 per cent) remains the main source of power in that state.
Compare that to 2003, when wind was just 0.8 per cent and coal 40 per cent, and the scale of the shift is clear.
However the US remains one of the globe's top emitters, contributing around 15 per cent of total CO2. Ironically, while they're reducing emissions but leaving the Paris Agreement, Chinese emissions (and the world's, overall) are again increasing – even while they stay part of the accord.
In New Zealand coal may be a relatively small player in our emissions profile, but without an outright ban pressure continues to mount to develop new coalfields – as evidenced by the Court of Appeal this week giving Rangitira Developments leave to appeal to develop an open-cast mine at Te Kuha near Westport, part of which lies on conservation estate land.
It's no secret the fossil fuel industry is fighting hard for its survival, irrespective of the impacts on our ecological wellbeing. If we are to "transition" to renewable green-tech sources of fuel and power, governments need to adopt a harder line in insisting remaining coal and oil and gas stay in the ground.
Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord is a major blow against such initiative.
Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.