The Storm That Broke Out

Salzburg, Austria - streets of Salzburg town centre and Christmas market.

The past week, or rather, the past few days, has seen a storm broke out; it was an event that brewed for months. Everybody knew it was coming, unlike the surprise of Brexit, but when it finally arrived, everyone reacted like they did not see it coming.

Yep, if you have not realised, the POTUS that was Mr Donald Trump had declared he would withdraw US from supporting the Paris Accord (aka COP21, which was an assembly of UN nations that agreed on taking collective actions to tackle climate change. Read HERE for more information).

Even before he made his speech, my FB feed was already filled with newsrooms announcing this impending doom. When that news finally broke out (which took place while it was sleeping time in Singapore), I woke up with feeds of reactions from all parties, for at least 2 days.

Salzburg, Austria - streets of Salzburg town centre and Christmas market.

Business leaders in the US (who were also the ones who helped Trump ascend his role of presidency) were quick to denounce Trump’s decision. Elon Musk, one of the leaders I admire, was among the first to express his disagreement, and took action to support his stand. He was also followed by Robert Iger, CEO of Walt Disney.



What I most admired, was how the businesses stepped in to take on the role that the US government has relinquished. Michael Bloomberg, a respected businessman, spearheaded a movement to continue supporting the Paris Agreement (Link HERE). “The new coalition says it will do whatever it takes to maintain the US’ role in the accord.” he was quoted as saying, and he said that he would make sure the UN would get the money US had promised to fund the accord.

And amidst all the hoohaa, there were also newsrooms that started speculating that China will fill in the void that the US left – leadership, not just in fighting climate change, but in leading the world in the march to progress. The New York Times even had an article filled with strong criticisms: “Trump Hands China a Gift: The Chance for Global Leadership

Shanghai Pudong, Pearl Tower, Central Business District, at night.

I think they were trying to be sarcastic, because China was Trump’s imagined enemy; he had accused China of unfair trade practices, creating the hoax of climate change, and for stirring conflict in the South China Sea. In fact, just slightly more than 10 years ago, China and the US were on opposite sides of the negotiation table when it came to agreeing on how to tackle climate change. Therefore, it would make more sense to spite the Trump administration, by quoting China to be the successor to lead the world.

Economically, China still needs a few more years to overtake US. Socially, China will take an even longer time. However, those were assuming that the US continues to progress. If it stagnated like Japan did (although Japan’s economic woes were due to a demographic change), China will leapfrog the US in shorter years just like how it did to Japan nearly 10 years back.

Now, China gets to have more say in dictating the terms to tackle climate change.

Stocks relating to renewable energy also plunged after Trump made the announcement. I thought of it as a knee-jerk reaction; renewable energy had been gaining traction outside of the US, with some areas in Europe even adopting renewable energy as a majority of their energy source. (Read: “Germany Breaks A Solar Record — Gets 85% Of Electricity From Renewables“)

In fact, given the current development of renewable energy, there were commentaries that pointed out that renewable energy has reached a tipping point to overthrow fossil fuels.

“Renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, could jump from 4% of global power generation today to as much as 36% by 2035”

Despite the heavy winds, there was contrasting peace in Europe. The reason was apparent: the European leaders knew that Trump’s announcement was just that: spoken words.

The rules of the agreement stated that the US can only leave after 2020. Trump also said he wanted to renegotiate the terms of the agreement, which is currently unfair to American businesses. Unfortunately, he can’t negotiate on an agreement he is not a part of.

Either way, his announcement was full of paradox. If he can leave the deal, he can’t negotiate. And no matter what, it is up to Trump and his administration to sort the mess they created.

I think the silver lining (yes, there is!) was how everyone else reacted.

View from Obertraun of Hallstatt across the lake of Halstatter See in Austria, Europe, at sunset, against the skyline of the Alps. The hotel overlooks the pier at the lakeside, with a boathouse set against the sheer cliffs and glow of the setting sun.

Pre-Trump, the world was all about “Oh, the US is our leader and only the US of A can lead us out of this and that.” The events of the past week showed us that businesses can still do the right thing, and reminded us that the top scientists in USA were all hailed from different countries. Countries reaffirmed their commitment to the deal, proving that the UN is not just an assembly of countries to talk-cock-sing-song.

A very uncanny analogy can be found right here in Singapore.

Arising from the increased resistance from the conservatives since Pink Dot SG 2016, the government reacted by imposing stricter rules that, from a layman point of view, seemed to be aimed at stopping future reiterations of Pink Dot SG. (I’m guessing the conservatives popped champagne every time they hear news of the government rolling out new guidelines.)

Unfortunately (or fortunately, for the Pink Dot supporters), the society at large reacted positively (or negatively, in the eyes of the conservatives). Although the organisers lost the ability to source funding from foreign companies, they actually gathered support of more than 100 local companies, as compared to the 18 foreign companies Pink Dot found last year (Read: “Pink Dot Gets 103 Singapore Sponsors and $201,000 – Surpassing Targets“).

Earlier this month, Pink Dot announced that there would be physical barriers to ensure foreigners will not be able to take part in the event. Though the organiser’s intent was good (it was to prevent acts of mischief, since it was a known fact that the conservatives tried to sabotage the event last year, by sending people to harass the participants), the whiplash was harsh; there were more criticisms than cheers of support. Even then, there were people who thought that this decision would actually spur more support from locals, vis-a-vis with their physical turnout.

Even though the new rules sounded draconian, as though the authorities had giving up on providing assistance to those who needed help, the outcome might not be as dreary. The situation is just like parenting; if you want your child to start walking by themselves, you’ve got to stop the hand-holding and not rush in whenever your child falls.

This intention might not be on the minds of the Trump administration or the PAP officials when they made decisions that seemed to burden those who are in need, yet it is also up to the observers to re-frame their perspectives to determine how they can make the best out of the situation. Like how American businesses are stepping up to save the world, or how local companies stand out to say they are accepting the diversity in the society, action from ground-up is still possible.

Yup, in the current society, we are so conditioned to think that the regulators control groupthink in the society, so much so we forgot that recent trends like the rise in social media and crowdfunding had shown us that individuals can still come together to make their voices heard.

Be it Paris Accord or Pink Dot, the climate is set to change.

To round off my rattle, here is an informative video on the Paris Agreement.

Disclaimer: I am a casual social commentator, who speaks because it is logical and rational, so my points are not necessarily based on established research and studies. As much as possible, I will refer to theories and knowledge I picked up through formal education. If you do agree to my ideas, please feel free to contaminate others in your social circle. If you disagree, though, it would be good to provide sources and credits, so that I can learn from my mistakes.

Salzburg, Austria - On the from Salzburg station to Mozartplatz. This is a park outside Salzburg Congress.

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