As Britain’s Brexit Conservatives push us away from our European partners, the appointment of the new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, a Trump-cheerleading, climate change denier, who reportedly “sounds and thinks much more like the President” than his predecessor Rex Tillerson, should send a chill down our spines.
Reaching a consensus that action must be taken to limit global warming to under 2°C is something British Liberal Democrats have fought for over many years. We championed a Paris Agreement before Paris. Yet the hiring of Mike Pompeo is another Trump threat to this consensus.
The decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement last year was bad news enough. But until his sacking, Rex Tillerson was one of the few supporters of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in Trump’s sphere of influence. Even as the CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies, Tillerson had backed the Paris Agreement.
I am not a natural fan of Mr Tillerson’s political instincts. Indeed, there maybe few things I would agree with Rex on: for example, he vouched his support for the war in Yemen, approved of Assad’s regime, and has pushed for tax cuts for American big business. However, on climate change Tillerson does seem to have been one of the few critical voices with influence over the White House. He did accept the existence and imminent threat of global warming; his successor does not believe it even exists.
In Mike Pompeo the President has got his guy. Trump is slowly, but surely, removing everyone who disagrees with him from positions of power and replacing them with ‘yes men’, who will okay his divisive and dangerous policies. Pompeo’s views on climate change, and on the international effort to enforce environmental protection, are extreme and align dangerously closely to Trump’s own stance. Tillerson of all people might prove to have been the environment’s last line of defence in Trump’s Washington.
Mike Pompeo has described the Paris Agreement as a “costly burden”. He campaigned for the permanent eradication of wind power production tax credits, calling them an “enormous government handout”.
“Under the Trump administration, if you thought Tillerson was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet”
Under the Trump administration, if you thought Tillerson was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Brexit Conservative government alienates us further from our natural allies across the EU - our greatest partners against Trump’s anti-climate change rhetoric.
Instead of cuddling up to a climate dangerous, protectionist, Russophile US President, Britain should be strengthening our European ties, not cutting them.
Yet Britain’s right wing Brexiteers keep insisting we should leave Europe’s successful customs union to have a trade deal with the US. The same US that is imposing tariffs on our steel exports, closing its environmental protection agency and filling influential positions in the White House and State department with climate change deniers. What planet are these people on?
On climate change as well as on Russia, Theresa May ought surely now to have no choice but to seek to build bridges with allies across Europe and the world. And show that if the US want to stand against global warming, against the liberal consensus of taking action, they will stand alone. And she should at last confront her own Conservative MPs, if that what it takes to put our national interest first.
Sir Ed Davey is the Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and a former energy and climate change secretary