As negotiators from nearly 200 countries meet this week in Bonn for the year’s biggest climate change talks, why is no one talking of a carbon tax on US exports? Why not sanction the US, the only country in the world to renege on its responsibilities to all of us?
The US is the second biggest carbon-dioxide polluter after China, according to the latest data from the World Bank. One might have thought it would have been awake to its responsibilities to limit the carbon footprint and repair what damage it can. Individual US states surely are, and their leader are to be commended for this. But the US federal government led by President Trump is not for turning.
Mr Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement. This formalized a stance the Trump administration had taken from the January presidential inauguration, when the very words “climate change” disappeared from most government websites and pro-renewable energy policies were deliberately shredded.
The US president was defiant in his repudiation not just of the Paris deal but anything that might advance the agenda embraced (howsoever imperfectly) by the rest of the world. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Mr Trump declared, in his inimitable fashion. He added in his usual grievance-led agenda for governance. “The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”
With such defiance to the common weal, there is little point in caterwauling. There is no point bemoaning the lost climate leadership role the world’s most powerful nation might have played. Instead, the US should be made aware that its strength rests on the world’s goodwill – and trade terms – as much as its own military, nuclear and economic power. A carbon tax on US products would send a message. An economic one. One that Mr Trump would understand.