Boris Johnson is under pressure to stand up to Trump on climate change

Boris Johnson is under pressure to stand up to Trump on climate change
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Climate change experts in the United Kingdom are urging the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “challenge robustly” President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE during his visit for this week’s NATO Leaders Meeting.

A letter to Johnson from 350 members of the climate change research community in the UK has called on him to “challenge President Trump about his irresponsible approach to climate change, and seek to persuade him both to take strong domestic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to join coordinated international action, including the Paris Agreement.”

The United Kingdom is expected to co-host the United Nations climate change summit in November 2020. Countries are expected to submit ahead of the summit revised national pledges for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, which are driving climate change, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, including holding global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.


The letter states, “President Trump’s unscientific denial of the risks of climate change is harming lives and livelihoods of people in the United Kingdom, United States and across the world.”

It adds, “His attempts to undermine the Paris Agreement are making the world a more dangerous place and threatening the prosperity and safety of current and future generations”.

President Trump’s administration last month initiated the process for withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, which is due to be completed on Nov 4., the day after the presidential election. It will mean the United States is the only country in the world that is not part of the Agreement.

The letter criticizes President Trump’s many false claims about the Paris Agreement. In a speech in October, he wrongly said that the agreement would mean “shutting down American producers with excessive regulatory restrictions like you would not believe, while allowing foreign producers to pollute with impunity." The White House’s website inaccurately describes the Agreement as “fraudulent, ineffective, and one-sided.”

In June 2017 President Trump announced that he wanted the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.


The authors of the letter note that climate change is “a recognised threat” to national security. It cites United States Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who earlier this year released his statement for the record on the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, warning: “Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”

They also draw attention to comments by the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, who told an audience in Australia this summer that it is important to realize that climate change has security implications because “it can force people to move, change the way we live, where we live, and so on, and of course that can fuel conflicts”

By contrast, the letter indicates, President Trump has,“ignored the warnings about climate change from scientists and national security experts." It also stresses that President Trump has “attempted to ridicule the scientific evidence for climate change, and his Administration has hidden the truth from the American people by removing information from many federal websites about the rising threats they face.”

The authors also criticize President Trump because he has “abandoned federal policies to tackle climate change and is attempting to stop some States from regulating their emissions of greenhouse gases.” Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide by the United States increased by 2.7 percent between 2017 and 2018. The United States remains the second largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases after China.

The White House has already indicated that next year’s summit of G-7 leaders, which will be held in the United States, will not feature climate change as a major agenda item. Recent summits have included climate change, but the president has refused to join discussions about the issue or to sign joint declarations about it.

Johnson will be under pressure to stand up to President Trump on climate change following criticism of his performance during the Conservative Party’s campaign for the United Kingdom’s general election, due to be held on Dec. 12.  

Last week, Boris Johnson refused to take part in a live television debate between political party leaders which was devoted to climate change. Channel 4 News placed an ice sculpture in Johnson’s studio seat instead.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto pledges to implement policies to cut the UK’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases effectively to zero by 2050, which is a legal requirement following a legislative amendment that was introduced by Johnson’s predecessor as Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayAre US-Japan relations on the rocks? Trump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Bolton says Boris Johnson is 'playing Trump like a fiddle' MORE

The 2019 United Nations climate change summit starts today in Madrid, Spain. Countries are due to formally agree to have next year’s summit hosted jointly by Italy and the United Kingdom and held in Glasgow, Scotland, between Nov. 9 and 20.

Bob Ward is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.