Al Jazeera: With me in the studio is Tom Burke who is Chairman of the climate think tank E3G… In making this decision President Trump has gone against his Secretary of State, his defence Secretary and his National Security Adviser, so what are the implications there in terms of national security and geopolitics?
Tom Burke: That makes me much more worried about the future of geopolitics than it does about the future of the climate. Withdrawal from Paris will not have very big impact on what other countries are doing to get carbon emissions down, but the fact that the President of the United States has basically rejected the advice of his most senior and most important advisers on international affairs and the most respected of all the appointments that he has made. He is also rejecting all of the advice and urgings of all of Americas traditional allies. It just seems to me that is a really worrying sign about what kind of America we are going to see in future. And it does reflect a real victory of Steve Bannon and the really nationalist, return to the first half of the 20th century, politics that he has been preaching, and people should be quite worried about that.
Al Jazeera: There are concerns that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world right now, and America is the second largest carbon polluter, and it’s promise to cut emissions made up a significant portion of the overall agreement. What tangible impact will there be in terms of the strength of this agreement, and a possible domino effect on the behaviour of other countries?
Tom Burke: I think for other countries, it just leaves even more open the opportunity for building a low-carbon economy. It will encourage India, China and a lot of the countries that he was complaining about to get on with simply taking advantage of the space left in global markets for new technologies.
Al Jazeera: In other words you have a very flourishing industry in solar power in China, if anything they are going to continue with that investment and then branch out into other areas of renewable energy.
Tom Burke: Yeah, and frankly they will be doing it with a lot of American money, private money from the America who sees where the opportunity is. What’s completely incomprehensible is the complete repudiation by a republican president of the signals that markets are giving him. We have just seen the board of Exxon told that it has to examine its climate risks, by the most significant voters in the HEM were BlackRock and the other big multinational financing firms, because they have begun to understand how serious these risks are to being able to make money. So, you have a republican president somehow trying to say that markets are wrong.
Al Jazeera: Following on from that logic, there is nothing to worry about because markets, and the private sector, and businesses will ultimately dictate where the money goes, and it will stay in renewables and electric cars, and coal won’t be coming back any time soon.
Tom Burke: I wouldn’t say that there is nothing to worry about, because I think this slows down the pace at which we could go, but I don’t think that Mr Trump is going to find anybody interested in having another negotiation.
Al Jazeera: I guess the central contradiction in all of this is the fact that he is pulling out of the deal, it’s a very bad deal, we are withdrawing and reasserting control over our own climate policy, but at the same time we want to re-negotiate a deal with nearly 200 countries.
Tom Burke: That’s the kind of thing that might make sense on a reality TV show but doesn’t make any sense in the real world. It assumes that all the other nations weren’t doing what they are doing because they had a real national interest in doing it, and the idea that they are now all about to say we were wrong all along and you were right, so we will join in, it is fantasy land.
Al Jazeera: And we have been looking at some of the reactions that have been coming in, and we had already heard a sense of frustration from Brussels and from the G7 summit, Jean Claud Junker saying that it is going to take them years to pull out, Angela Merkel at the G7 summit pleading with Trump to stay in the Agreement, and city Mayors saying that it’s not going to affect anything that we do, in fact if anything it will galvanise them. Do you think that this could breathe new life into the Paris Accord rather than weaken it?
Tom Burke: I think that’s absolutely right, I think when you get this type of arbitrary and completely inexplicable intervention, what it tends to do is push other people together, rather like Margaret Thatcher did in British politics. By being very aggressive she made her opposition more united than it was, so I think that we will see some of that as we go forward. I think that tomorrow we are going to see a really striking agreement between the EU and China, so this will push the EU and China closer together, and from what I have seen from the draft texts that have leaked out, it is going to be really rather remarkable and very strong, and an immediate response in the real world to Mr Trump.
Al Jazeera: Tom Burke, head of the climate think tank E3G, thanks you very, much for coming in and sharing your opinion and expertise with us.