As one of the most advanced developed countries in this interconnected world, the US should have shown a good demeanor in global environmental governance.
Yet after the Trump administration came to power, the US has not only reversed its environmental protection policies, but also seriously damaged world environmental governance. The bad US record on environmental governance bears out its reputation as a “consensus breaker” and "troublemaker."
The US is the world's largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases. At the same time, per capita carbon emissions in the US remain high. In 2017, fossil fuel emissions per capita were 14.6 tons of carbon dioxide, which was 3.3 times the global average. The performance of the US in reducing emissions is an important factor in the effectiveness of global climate governance.
To address global climate change, the US signed the Paris Agreement with a number of countries in 2016. However, the Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement since it took office. In 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would formally withdraw on November 4, 2020.
Ironically, as an important party promoting the conclusion and entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the US has also become the only party to withdraw from the Paris Agreement so far.
The US not only refuses to undertake emission reduction obligations, but also refuses to fulfill its promises. The US has the largest amount of arrears in the history of the Global Environment Facility, with total arrears of $111 million, accounting for 95.7%. The Trump administration even announced it would stop donating to the Green Climate Fund.
So far, the US has not yet ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, which makes it completely outside the global biodiversity conservation cooperation system.
The US is one of the largest destinations and consumer countries for trafficking wild animals and their products. According to the World Wildlife Crime Report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, North America accounted for 38.5% of the world's wildlife confiscation data shared from 2005 to 2018. The US is also a major shark fishing country, and sells a large number of products such as shark oil, which has severely damaged shark resources.
On August 12, 2019, the US government officially approved the revision of key provisions in the Endangered Species Act, which removed legal obstacles to commercial activities such as mining, oil and gas drilling in wildlife habitats, and weakened the protection of endangered species.
At the same time, the US is the world’s largest exporter of solid waste and a major consumer of plastic per capita. The US ignores the environmental interests and people’s health in developing countries. It has long used developing countries with insufficient processing capacity as the final disposal site for plastic waste.
The wildfires in California have been burning for nearly two months, covering more than 16,000 square kilometers. The air quality index has repeatedly risen, and carbon emissions produced by wildfires are unbelievable.
Data shows more than 8,200 wildfires have occurred in California this year, killing more than 30 people and destroying more than 8,400 buildings. Many analyses have linked raging fires to climate change and the environmental policies that the US has reversed in recent years.
Mankind has only one earth. It is the responsibility of all countries to protect the ecological environment and promote sustainable development. The US, as the country that should contribute the most to global environmental governance, has repeatedly violated its commitments on environmental governance issues, and has a track record of doing so. Such an administration owes its own people an answer, let alone the world.