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28/06/2017

Donald Trump and the tide of history

Donald Trump

The growth of renewables will continue with or without the support of Donald Trump, argues Emma Pinchbeck

The Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change, is an extraordinary global achievement. Until President

Trump’s decision to withdraw the US, the only nations outside the agreement were Nicaragua (whose government wanted more action) and Syria. 

The immediate consequences have included a reaffirmation by the major European economies, as well as India and China, of their commitment to the pact. President Macron has even offered American climate scientists generous grants to relocate to France. 

Trump also faces resistance domestically. City leaders across the US are ignoring federal government and investing in renewables. California, the world’s fifth largest economy, is pressing the US to deliver its decarbonisation commitments.

The Governor of Pennsylvania even objected to the reference Trump made to coal jobs in Pittsburgh when announcing the US’s withdrawal from Paris: he believes that the best future for former coal towns and their workers is investment in the energy technologies of the future.  

The growth of renewables explains why politicians are resisting Trump’s decision. The global renewable energy boom, worth $300 billion a year, will continue with or without Trump. These technologies are bankable options for powering the global economy, creating regional jobs and stimulating innovation. 

In the UK we have installed more than 11 gigawatts of wind energy in 10 years – enough to power more than 7.6 million homes.

"It is important that  leadership on renewables is backed up with good energy policy, from planning to strategic investment support"

In that time the cost of renewables has fallen at a speed more typical of telecoms and consumer electronics than big infrastructure.

Renewables now challenge technologies such as gas and nuclear on costs.

The sector has brought new opportunities to places that needed investment: Grimsby and Hull for offshore wind; Cornwall and Orkney for marine energy. The supply chain of British firms stretches across former industrial heartlands. 

It is important that leadership on renewables is backed up with good energy policy, from planning to strategic and investment support. It is the policy framework, not just the overall targets, that matters if we want to tackle climate change. 

Our upcoming Industrial Strategy, Emissions Reduction Plan and decisions on future auctions for low carbon capacity are all opportunities to show ambition. We can all benefit from this –British companies exported renewable energy goods and services to 43 countries in 2016, including the US. 

Far from putting America First, Trump has put it behind the rest of the world.

Emma Pinchbeck is executive director of RenewableUK

Image | Shutterstock

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