Trump abandons global climate pact

President Donald Trump will withdraw the US from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, a move that’s fulfilled a major campaign pledge but drawn condemnation from US allies and business leaders.

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Trump, tapping into the “America First” message he used when he was elected president last year, said the Paris accord would undermine the US economy, cost US jobs, weaken American national sovereignty and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.

“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be,” Trump said.

“The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance,” Trump added.

Supporters of the accord, including some leading US business figures, called Trump’s move a blow to international efforts to curb the warming of the planet that threatens far-reaching consequences for this century and beyond. Former Democratic President Barack Obama expressed regret over the pullout from a deal he was instrumental in brokering.

“But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; 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,” Obama added.

“Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the US’s leadership position in the world,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein wrote on Twitter.

Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, said his administration would begin negotiations either to re-enter the Paris accord or to have a new agreement “on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers”. He complained in particular about China’s terms under the agreement.

International leaders including the pope had pressed Trump not follow through on an election campaign promise to abandon the accord, and they lamented his decision.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a rare joint statement the agreement could not be renegotiated and urged their allies to hasten efforts to combat climate change. They pledged to do more to help developing countries adapt.

“While the US decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

China’s state news agency Xinhua published a commentary on Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, describing it as a “global setback”.

China overtook the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007.

With Trump’s action, the United States will walk away from nearly every other nation in the world on one of the pressing global issues of the 21st century. Syria and Nicaragua are the only other non-participants in the accord.

The United States was one of 195 nations that agreed to the accord in Paris in December 2015. Under the pact, which was years in the making, countries both rich and poor committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossils fuels and blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

Australia sticking by Paris climate deal

Malcolm Turnbull is resisting pressure from within his own ranks to reconsider Australia’s commitment to the Paris agreement after Donald Trump announced the United States is pulling out.

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Labor leader Bill Shorten says the US has failed to stand by its 2015 promise to stick to the global deal and has urged the prime minister to press Mr Trump to reconsider the decision.

At least three coalition MPs have called for a rethink of Australia’s involvement in the climate pact following the US decision because of its potential impact on business.

The prime minister says the government will not be following the US.

“We are committed to the Paris agreement,” he told reporters on Friday in Singapore, where he is attending security talks.

“We are on track to meet our 2030 targets of a reduction in emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent from 2005 levels – and I should say we are doing well.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who chairs parliament’s environment committee, hailed Mr Trump’s decision and questioned the benefits of Australia remaining in it as “something to monitor”.

“The idea we can lock something in and leave it for a decade is just not the reality of the real world,” Mr Kelly told Sky News on Friday.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says a report by chief scientist Alan Finkel on Australia’s electricity sector should be delayed while a thorough assessment is made of the US decision’s impact.

However, Mr Turnbull says the report will be presented as planned next week when he meets with the premiers in Hobart.

“We are committed to ensuring that Australians have affordable and reliable energy and that we meet our emission reduction targets,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Shorten said Mr Trump had made the wrong decision.

“We call upon prime minister Turnbull not to follow Donald Trump’s lead, to give in to the right-wing dinosaurs of the right of his party,” he told reporters in Perth.

The Australian Industry Group said the Trump decision made it all the more important for the federal government to provide a clear, long-term climate policy.

More than 190 countries signed onto the deal, with 146 proceeding to ratify the agreement.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will get the chance to discuss the issue with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Sydney next week.

In making his announcement, Mr Trump said he was willing to make a new deal but only one that was “fair” for the US, suggesting the existing agreement was about other countries gaining an advantage over the US.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says while the “cowardly decision” will be welcomed by parties such as One Nation and some members of the Liberal party, it won’t dent Australia’s commitment to dealing with climate change.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific condemned the move but says it believes the rest of the world will continue to make progress on ambitious climate actions, while Australian investors in renewable energy have also expressed disappointment.

Trump sparks business call for certainty

Industry groups say the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement makes it even more important that Australian governments stop political point-scoring and focus on a clear long-term climate policy.

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President Donald Trump said the world’s largest economy was quitting the “unfair” Paris agreement because it cost the US money and jobs.

But Australian business groups say there is more to be lost without the sort of certainty agreements such as Paris give industry.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday called for a firm commitment from the federal government to clean, affordable and reliable energy that would provide confidence about future prices and policy.

“This means a bipartisan approach and an end to point-scoring on both sides of the climate debate,” ACCI chief executive James Pearson said.

“When each alternative government threatens to undo the policies of its predecessor, investment decisions are delayed or deferred, which hurts productivity and jobs.”

Mr Pearson said the Paris agreement represented the greatest certainty with regard to global action.

“Australia’s ratification of the Paris agreement was a signal to other nations that we are willing to work cooperatively to address this global issue,” he said.

“It would be a breath of fresh air to see our domestic politics take a similar cooperative approach.”

At least three Coalition MPs have called for a rethink of Australia’s involvement in the climate pact following the US decision because of its potential impact on business.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government will not be following the US.

“We are committed to the Paris agreement,” Mr Turnbull told reporters on Friday in Singapore, where he is attending security talks.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which counts Australian Super among its 31 member funds, welcomed the Australian government’s adherence to the Paris agreement and said it remained key to reducing investment risk due to climate change.

Meanwhile, the Australian Industry Group said Australia’s international trade competitiveness would suffer without clear policy to encourage investment.

Business as usual in Canberra also threatens energy security and affordability, AI Group chief executive Innes Willox said.

“Major investments in Australian industry and energy hinge on how Australia and the world choose to respond to climate change,” Mr Willox said

“Without a clear case for long-term investment we will wind up with an energy system that is simultaneously insecure, unaffordable and high-emitting.”

Tax office struggles with cyber security

The tax office won’t have mandated security checks in place against external cyber threats until November, a committee has heard.

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An audit of the Australian Taxation Office, which also looked at other departments, found it had a “reasonable” level of cyber protection from within the organisation.

But it was not sufficiently protected against external attacks.

The ATO collects more than $440 billion in tax revenue each year through its electronic lodgement system.

ATO officials told parliament’s audit committee in a hearing in Canberra on Friday the organisation was expected to meet the Australian Signals Directorate’s mandatory “top four” strategies to mitigate cyber intrusions by November.

However, it was having problems with a number of computer servers and facing the busy “tax time” period.

The committee heard the ATO was only “starting planning” to meet a broader set of protections, known as the ASD’s “essential eight”.

The top four strategies are said by the intelligence agency to prevent more than 85 per cent of cyber intrusions.

Immigration department chief information officer Randall Brugeaud could not say when the top four would be met by his department.

The prime minister’s cyber security advisor Alastair MacGibbon told the committee the top four were not easy to achieve, “but should be done”.

He said Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson, who chairs the government’s cyber security board, wanted all departments and agencies to achieve the recommended protections “rapidly”.

“There is a really strong ambition on the part of the government to improve the resilience of systems,” he said.

The ASD’s standards represented “exceptional, world-class guidance”, he said.

The auditor-general found in its report published in March that “not operating in a cyber-resilient environment puts entities’ data and business processes at risk, with potentially significant consequences for Australian citizens and other clients and stakeholders”.

The ATO said in response to the report it had committed extra resources to address the problems.

What happens if Trump withdraws from the Paris climate deal?

United States President Donald Trump has tweeted that he will this week announce whether America, the world’s second largest emitter, intends to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement inked by 195 signatories last year.

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Online news site Axios has reported that three sources have said the president intends to follow through on campaign promises to “cancel” the agreement, having previously dismissed climate change as a hoax fabricated by the Chinese.

Experts told SBS World News that while a US withdrawal would be disappointing, it would not be catastrophic for the global agreement.

“I think that it’s going to survive because it’s got huge popular buy in,” said Olivia Kemba, Acting CEO of the Climate Institute.

“There’s been a huge effort by many powerful countries to make it work.”

Ms Kemba says the success of the agreement will depend entirely on how other countries respond to a potential US withdrawal.

“There is definitely strong support from Western Europe, but China has also said very clearly and very pointedly that they see this as an important agreement,” she said.

World Leaders celebrate the deal at the closing ceremony of COP21, Paris, 2015. United Nations Photo

The Paris agreement builds on the Kyoto framework, pushing countries to make voluntary, escalating emissions reduction commitments every five years.

Ms Kemba says that while there are concerns about copy-cat behaviour and other countries pulling out, there is still strong international support.

“Other countries signed up to this agreement because it was in their self-interest to do so – just because the United States pulled out doesn’t mean that it actually changes the calculus of what’s in their self-interest.”

Professor Rosemary Lyster, Director of the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, says the world has forged ahead without America before, and it can do so again.

“The United States was never a member of the Kyoto Protocol and yet negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change continued even when President Bush tried to set up alternative forums to the multilateral negotiations,” she said.

“Other powerful nations such as the European Union and also China have played, and continue to play, leadership roles in the international arena – so the United States will be surrendering a leadership role.”

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President Trump’s poor international image may bolster backers of the agreement, Ms Kemba said.

“President Trump is making it easy for other leaders to resist what he does,” she said.

“He’s created a dynamic where countries can say we’re not going to do what the US does, and that is actually a domestically popular position to take.”

The announcement on whether the United States is in or out comes after the president’s first international trip, returning last weekend after a frosty reception from European leaders.

The G7 issued a statement supporting the climate accord, but the United Sates was explicitly excluded.

“We have a situation of six against one, meaning there is still no sign of whether the US will remain in the Paris accord or not,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said following the meeting in Sicily.

“The whole discussion on the topic of climate was very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory.”

Merkel comments on ‘controversial’ climate discussions

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French President Emmanuel Macron urged the United States to remain engaged, while earlier in the trip the Pope gifted President Trump a copy of his encyclical on the environment and climate change.

While world leaders failed to secure a commitment from President Trump over the Paris agreement, Ms Kemba says the president – who has championed a nationalist, ‘America first’ agenda – is paying closer attention to the domestic argument.

“The idea that if the G6 leaders had just been a little more smiley and friendly and fawning… that seems to me to be unlikely,” she said.

Foreign Policy has reported that inside the White House itself, divisions are clear.

Supporting the agreement are Trump’s daughter Ivanka, son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – opposed are White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon and head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt.

On the campaign last year President Trump slammed the agreement as a “bad deal” that dealt self-inflicted wounds to the US economy – as president his repeal of environmental regulations has been heralded as one of the few successes of his young presidency.

Ms Kemba says his position on the role of the government is clear.

”Whether he’s in or out, it seems he’s not interested in using the federal government to drive down emissions in the United States,” she said.

“With or without, the contribution of the United States is really going to come from state governments anyway, as well as commercial decisions and developments in technology.”

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Ann Carlson, Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA Law School, says that at this point, the withdrawal may be the most honest outcome.

“Remaining in the Paris Agreement could allow Trump to appease his daughter and give him cover to appear to be more reasonable than his domestic environmental policies on the ground deserve,” she wrote in a recent article.

“It would definitely be met by largely favourable media and public reaction.”

Professor Lyster says that even if withdrawal destabilises global efforts or creates doubt about the need for action, the international momentum is still with those who support climate action.

“Overall there is a wide acceptance of the science of climate change – especially as extreme weather events, influenced by climate change, continue to wreak havoc around the world,” she said.

Ms Kemba says the main loser of withdrawal will be Americans, as they deal themselves out of international influence and potential boom in renewable energy technology.

“If the US goes slow or pulls out, it’s only hurting itself.”

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