Donald Trump’s isolationist “America First” rhetoric, along with his administration’s abhorrence for science and environmental protection, may have appealed to a small minority of voters, but its effect has the world’s most powerful country looking increasingly weak and divided.
Among the many examples of this, the one that stands out the most this week is the U.S.’ participation at the U.N. Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany. According to reporting by The New York Times, a shadow U.S. delegation has emerged at the conference of representatives from cities, states, universities, and advocacy groups that are committed to reassuring the rest of the world that most of the country is against Trump’s derailing of progress on environmental protection.
Their mantra: “We Are Still In,” a reference to the Paris agreement.
That alternative delegation, called “America’s Pledge,” featured speeches by former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, CA Gov. Jerry Brown, and various Democratic senators, who sought to promise other countries that the U.S. remains committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and addressing climate change, despite our president.
The alternative alliance, which seeks to speak on behalf of U.S. cities, states, businesses, and other institutions, represents the equivalent of an economy larger than Japan and Germany combined.
“It is important for the world to know, the American government may have pulled out of the Paris agreement, but the American people are committed to its goals, and there is nothing Washington can do to stop us,” Bloomberg said, according to the Associated Press.
Brown added: “In the United States, we have a federal system, and states have real power as do cities. And when cities and states combine together, and then join with powerful corporations, that’s how we get stuff done.”
Meanwhile, the official U.S. delegation is “laying low,” according to The New York Times, its office doors at the summit “almost always closed.” Those officials are expected to emerge on Monday to promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy as a so–called response to climate change.
Worse, Trump administration energy and environmental officials chose to snub the U.N. climate summit to attend a conference hosted by climate change deniers in Houston, TX. That includes Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who sent a video welcome to attendees of the America First Energy Conference, hosted by the Heartland Institute.
According to PBS’ Frontline, “While the focus in Bonn is on combating climate change, at the America First Energy Conference in Houston, hosted by the libertarian Heartland Institute, the talk was about fossil fuels and how – as one of the event’s panels asserted – “human activity … is not causing a climate crisis.”
Speakers at the Houston event include a former ExxonMobil executive now advising the State Department on energy, a person who helped stack the EPA with climate change deniers, and a Department of Interior official who backs energy development on public lands, among others, Frontline reported.
“The Heartland event included discussions on energy and national security; the future of coal; the costs of excessive regulations; and the benefits to health, agriculture and the environment of ending the ‘war on fossil fuels,’” the report added.
Meanwhile, back in Bonn, this bipolarity on environmental and energy policy coming from the U.S. has some other leaders confused.
According to The New York Times:
Diplomats from other countries said they were glad to see governors, mayors and other Americans still committed to the Paris agreement making their presence felt. But they also said they weren’t sure which voice of American policy they should believe.
“Unfortunately there’s no connect between those processes,” said Dr. Ian Fry, lead negotiator for Tuvalu, a South Pacific island threatened by rising seas. “It’s just two worlds, unfortunately.”