The Press

Good news for the planet

- Climate Change · U.S. News · US Politics · Ecology · Politics · Elections · New Zealand · United States of America · Joe Biden · Donald Trump · U.S. Supreme Court · Tucker Carlson · Columbia University · New York · Columbia · Paris · John Kerry · White House National Security Council · Council · Barack Obama · Parliament of New Zealand · Laura Ingraham

New Zealand democ­racy and US democ­racy have run in par­al­lel this year. Elec­tions held just days apart led to re­sults that re­vealed pub­lic trust, or the lack of it, in the sys­tem.

Trust in democ­racy is at high lev­els in New Zealand. But in the US, the pub­lic view of the elec­toral sys­tem has been more con­tested, thanks in part to de­lib­er­ate mis­in­for­ma­tion.

The re­veal­ing par­al­lels con­tinue. On the same day that the New Zealand Par­lia­ment was for­mally opened, and MPs were sworn in, US pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den was fi­nally able to move for­ward with his own tran­si­tion to power, af­ter a con­ces­sion of sorts by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

We might look back at 2020 as a year in which the worst could have hap­pened but didn’t. Dire pre­dic­tions that Trump would at­tempt a coup if he lost, or en­cour­age right-wing mili­tias to cause civil un­rest, failed to ma­te­ri­alise. Le­gal at­tempts to re­verse the elec­tion re­sult will not change the out­come, de­spite pre-elec­tion fears about the make-up of the Supreme Court.

Along with the fail­ure of his some­times bizarre le­gal team, there is a view that Trump’swould-be con­ces­sion was forced by a cho­rus of chief ex­ec­u­tiveswho looked ahead to the Bi­den ad­min­is­tra­tion and urged him to move on. Trump’s back­ers in the me­dia, such as Tucker Carl­son and Laura In­gra­ham, also ad­vised view­ers to start ‘‘liv­ing in re­al­ity’’.

There is an enor­mous sense of re­lief that the Trump era is now all but over. Another four years of Trump­ism would have been un­sus­tain­able, and not just for the mores of US democ­racy but for the planet. Columbia Univer­sity in New York launched a Cli­mate Dereg­u­la­tion Tracker in early 2017 to record ‘‘steps taken by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress to scale back or wholly elim­i­nate fed­eral cli­mate mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion mea­sures’’. By this month, it had listed

165 roll­backs of en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions and stan­dards.

Four of them di­rectly con­cerned Trump’s in­ten­tion to pull out of the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, which fi­nally came to fruition on Novem­ber 4, a day af­ter the elec­tion. Bi­den has sig­nalled that he will put the US back into the Paris agree­ment as soon as pos­si­ble.

Bi­den’s ap­point­ment of for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date John Kerry in the new role of spe­cial pres­i­den­tial en­voy on cli­mate change, which will give a cli­mate of­fi­cial a seat on the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for the first time, is another sign of how much more se­ri­ously he takes the cli­mate cri­sis. Kerry’s in­ter­na­tional role will be matched by another of­fi­cial at the do­mes­tic level.

The Paris agree­ment, which took ef­fect in 2016, is seen as a his­toric achieve­ment agreed upon by

196 coun­tries. The in­ten­tion is to keep av­er­age global tem­per­a­tures from in­creas­ing by more than

2 de­grees Cel­sius above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. The agree­ment was held up as ama­jor achieve­ment of the pres­i­dency of Barack Obama, who called it ‘‘the best pos­si­ble shot to save the one plan­etwe’ve got’’ in 2016. By then, of course, Trump had al­ready in­di­cated his will­ing­ness to re­move the US from it.

But de­spite Trump’s petty and de­struc­tive op­po­si­tion to the agree­ment, cities, states and the pri­vate sec­tor con­tin­ued to pur­sue a low-car­bon fu­ture. This is one rea­son why emis­sions plateaued un­der Trump rather than in­creased.

The other rea­son is steeped in de­li­cious irony. The Covid-19 pan­demic kept emis­sions down, just as it con­trib­uted to the end of Trump­ism it­self.

Another four years of Trump­ism would have been un­sus­tain­able ... for the planet.

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