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Politics Trump can pull out of the Paris accord – it won’t derail the fight against global warming

There was a time when an American president could derail the effort to fight global warming. But not this time, and not this President.

Donald Trump's declaration that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change will have as much impact as someone in the 1890s declaring their opposition to the internal combustion engine.

More than a century later, that engine is finally starting to give way to electric alternatives, just as carbon-fueled power plants are giving way to cleaner sources.

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Read more: Trump pulling U.S. from Paris climate accord, dismaying allies

Globe editorial: More hot air, courtesy of Donald Trump

For subscribers: With U.S. out, Paris Agreement could soon become the walking dead

Mr. Trump can howl, as he did Thursday, that "the Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists who sought to gain wealth at our country's expense." But the rest of the world has moved on.

Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper honestly believed that pursuing climate-change initiatives, while the Americans did nothing, would cost Canadian jobs. The landscape has changed since then.

Our economy, as well as the global environment, now depend on exploiting renewable sources. Canada still has a future as an exporter of carbon-based energy. But it must also have a non-carbon based future, or there will be no future at all.

That's why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Thursday that he was "deeply disappointed" by America's withdrawal from Paris, but that Canada would be "unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth."

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After all, Canada and the United States have been working co-operatively at the province-state level for years to combat global warming.

Quebec joined the California-based Western Climate Initiative, a cap-and-trade carbon market, in 2014. Ontario is joining as well. British Columbia has its carbon tax. New York, which along with several other northeastern states is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, has the lowest per-capita carbon emissions of any state in the union. Texas is a leader in wind energy; Arizona, in solar. Renewable sources contribute an ever-greater share of domestic energy production.

There has been no increase in electricity consumption for a decade in the United States, and total consumption is expected to stay flat through 2050. "Power-sipping appliances, LED lighting and a shift away from heavy industry all have contributed to the slowdown," Bloomberg explained in a recent article. And America, which is always at the forefront of innovation, is a global leader in electric-vehicle and autonomous-vehicle technology.

The United States will continue to make an important contribution to the fight against global warming, whether Mr. Trump likes it or not. Or, as former president Barack Obama said in his statement Thursday: "I'm confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got."

A president's declaration that the United States was withdrawing from a climate agreement might once have caused other countries to reverse course as well. But not any more. China and India – which, along with the United States, account for more than half of all global emissions – are on their own path.

News item: With solar energy costs plummeting, India last month cancelled plans to construct nearly 14 gigawatts-worth of coal-fired power plants.

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"For the first time solar is cheaper than coal in India," wrote analyst Tim Buckley, "and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets is profound."

News item: Earlier this year, China abandoned plans to construct more than 100 coal-fired plants that would have produced 120 gigawatts of electricity. China is still heavily invested in coal, but it was also responsible for 40 per cent of the increase of renewable energy in 2015.

News item: Renewable energy now outstrips any other form of new energy production globally, including coal, each year. We've turned the corner; the train has left the station; the horse is out of the barn. Whichever cliché you prefer, the fact remains: Donald Trump is so last decade.

Governments, businesses and individuals act in their own self-interest. As the consequences of climate change become more apparent each year, and as the economic attractiveness of renewable energy and energy conservation increases, people, businesses and governments rationally decide to go green – not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing.

So go ahead and withdraw from Paris, Mr. President. Your successor will override you. In the meantime, your country, and ours, and the world will carry on the fight against climate change without you. Your absence will not be missed.

Listen to Donald Trump's speech about the U.S. withdrawing and potentially renegotiating its place in the Paris climate change accord condensed into 90 seconds.
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