Internationalists, Nationalism and the Paris Accord

The internationalist agenda is so ingrained in our subconscious that it feels almost immoral and unenlightening to question those who are infuriated with President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Accord. To find logic or reasoning behind the recent decision taken by his administration comes across as defiant to mainstream views. I understand the magnitude and impact of his decision and the implications it has at the glocal level, but I must also move past my subjectivity and analyze his decision from a strategic international relations perspective. It is evident that we are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in foreign and domestic policy but as Daniel Gardner suggests, domestic opposition remains in denial and unable to react to the paradigm shift.[1] Everyone knew that the Trump administration was going to pull out of the accord, he said it during his presidential campaign and constantly reminded the public about his views, but the internationalists were so naïve that they believed he would not dare make such a bold decision.

I have said this before and will continue to say it; the problem was not Donald Trump but the irresponsible Democratic Party that stuck to the Hilary Clinton card knowing well that it was not the best option. If the Paris Accord was so important, if all the local and global issues that have been raised lately by the opposition were so important, then they should have been raised during the election and not now. Instead of spinning their wheels and just criticizing and mocking this administration the opposition should be channeling their energy for the next election. The same goes for those who are still in shock about the Paris Accord; move forwards, reenergize, stand up again and continue the struggle, just like the global environmentalist movement has done since the 1960s.

Lets not be cynical. The Paris Accord is another global experiment that might move forward without the United States and that may not even produce any significant outcomes after all. History reminds us that the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol did not solve anything. There was no public outcry, at least of the caliber of today’s outcry, when President Bill Clinton did not ratify the treaty and President G.W. Bush removed the nation fully from the accord. This historic era consumed the attention of the scientific community, policy makers, and civil societies across the world and it was predicted then that if the United States did not comply, the future of the planet would be at stake. Back then the internationalists (simply defined as those in favor of globalization) were just beginning to construct their globalist argument, China was not the economic power that it is today, India and the other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries were far from achieving the accelerated economic growth of the past ten years, and the economic interdependency of the international system was not even imaginable.

The first stage of the Kyoto climate change treaty came to an end in 2012 with no positive results to show in terms of climate change but with very significant changes in terms of the size of its bureaucracy and the consolidation of an environmentalist culture and community that included a sophisticated network of international Non Government Organizations (NGOs), politicians, scholars, researchers, business entrepreneurs, and social advocates. After millions of dollars in taxpayer money from the pockets of citizens of those contributing nations across the world, the result was an increase of 58 per cent more greenhouse gas emission led by the most advanced industrialized nations of the world and the emerging BRICS economies.[2] Around that same time the former chief of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon reminded us what we are being reminded today, that “the future of out planet is at stake.”[3]

By then the number of politicians, professionals, businesses, multilateral agencies, NGOs, and research institutions that depended exclusively on the environmental and climate change agendas had increased tenth fold. Today, many careers and incomes depend exclusively on the active continuation of the climate discussion and the same may be said about U.N. budgets that continue to unfortunately depend on war, conflict, social displacement, human rights violations, poverty, environmental catastrophes, and climate change. A whole global institutional body is also dependent on this discourse; research grants, whole university programs, bureaucracies, NGOs, and even political parties are actually dependent on the continuous threat that humans and capitalist production systems pose on our plant. To put it bluntly, they are all dependent on the system’s continues infliction of harm to our planet just like Drug War bureaucracies, institutions, professionals, businesses, and governments across the planet are dependent on the continuation of global narcotics production and consumption in order to justify their own budgets. Up to what point are the critics really worried about the planet or are they really worried about their self-interest?

When will the environmentalists and climate change advocates be honest with the global community and admit that there is no realistic solution to the problem unless the international system moves away from a market-driven capitalist model? When will the scientists from the most advanced industrialized nations of the world (the leading voices of the Paris Accord) come forward and reveal to the global community that the environmental threats will only be mitigated if the western world stops growing economically and its citizens stop consuming?

The Paris Accord’s goal of impeding the earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees by the end of the century meant that the most advanced and aggressive capitalist economy in the planet (USA) had to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions about 26 to 28 percent in the next eight years.[4] The Obama administration had agreed in essence to tamper with the nation’s economic growth, pleasing the international community while at the same time betting on the renewable energy sector to fill in the gap left by coal and other non-renewable energy source that would be sacrificed on behalf of the policy. The initiative sacrificed the jobs and wellbeing of American citizens and communities dependent on these industries; the same communities that would at the end mark the difference in the last elections.

The Trump victory ended the hopes of implementing this long-term internationalist policy. Sacrificing local communities on behalf of the international community did not fit well with the objectives of the current administration whose theoretical objective is accelerated economic growth accompanied by increasing employment, and the revival of American energy independence.

The short-term results dependency of our political system has forced this administration to remove the nation from the Paris Accord. Moreover, the nation, its institutions and infrastructure, culture, and business sectors are not prepared to comply with the greenhouse reduction goals without sacrificing profits and economic growth, and that is not something this administration is willing to risk.

The nationalist position assumed by the Trump administration has brought an end to an internationalist status quo of more than seventy years. The Paris Accord had been a tremendous victory for the internationalists that had finally achieved their objective of forcing the U.S. into an agreement that weakened their sovereignty. For the first time in history, a U.S. president had placed the interests of the international community above the interests of the nation.

This was welcomed by the community of nations that share the common goal of weakening the sovereignty and power of the United States. It is not a secret that it has been the goal of traditional Western nations to reclaim their position of power within the international system, and it is no secret that the objective of Russia and China has been to decrease the power and influence of the United States. The Paris Accord had become a powerful foreign policy tool, achieving what no other policy or strategy had achieved in the past. The deal secured the approval of an experiment whose hypothesis could only be tested if all nations complied with the parameters of a research design that was fully dependent on the implementation of economic and foreign policy decisions that resulted in a disadvantageous position for the superpower of the world.

What was not in the plans of local or foreign internationalists was a Trump victory. His electoral success was not part of the calculations. The internationalists became too confident and did not even imagine that their system could crumble, but the rise of nationalism in the West, and particularly in the United States, changed the constructed system. The decision to move away from the Paris Accord was expected back when Trump won the election, but the media, the internationalists, and the environmentalists made it sound as a surprising move. There was nothing to be shocked about; he was just reclaiming national sovereignty in the international sphere.  The decision impacts the internationalists’ agenda but it is not a devastating threat to the environment.

It is clear that the move will not deviate the nation’s private sector from moving forward with their pursue and development of renewable technology and it will not be surprising to see the United States become the leader in this industry down the road. The only difference will be that it will be an initiative driven by the private sector pursuing its market-driven interests and not a government initiative in search of the reaffirmation of internationalism.

Even the critics agree that, with or without the participation of the United States government, the world will move forward with the Paris initiative. Some claim that we have given up our leadership role in this matter but we will have to see who picks up the bill now that the Americans have abandoned the table. What nation is going to fund the sustainable economic development of an aggressive capitalist developing world? Who is going to tell the BRICS nations to slow down? What nation is going to take over the costs left by the American departure? This at the end is the biggest issue, because the world got used to the American taxpayer taking over the heaviest financial load of the internationalist agenda.

It will be interesting to see how the Paris Accord unfolds in the absence of the United States. It will also be important to measure results against the old Kyoto climate change treaty. Will the Chinese or the Germans place the costs of leadership on the shoulders of their taxpayers and will they be happy to carry this weight or will other nations begin to play the “sovereignty” card? Will other nations be willing to sacrifice economic growth and development within our current global capitalist system? I believe the answer is “no.” I am convinced that nothing will change at the global scale unless all the nations of the world move away from a market-driven capitalist model of production and unless population starts shrinking, but the vicious cycle is too ingrained in the global collective psyche.

[1] Daniel L. Gardner. “Trump and the Paradigm Shift.” USA Today, April 17, 2017. Accessed June 3, 2017.

[2] Max Paris. “Kyoto Climate Change Treaty Sputters to a Sorry End.” CBC. December 31, 2012. Accessed June 3, 2017.

[3] Faranaaz Parker. “The Future of our Planet is at Stake, Warns UN Chief.” Mail and Guardian, December 7, 2011. Accessed May 1, 2017.

[4] Brian Resnick. “Four Things to Know About The Paris Climate Agreement.” Vox. June 1, 2017. Accessed June 5, 2017.


Stefano Tijerina

About Stefano Tijerina

My name is Stefano Tijerina and this blog’s objective is to connect Maine’s social, environmental, economic, cultural, and political issues to the global system, centering on how the local impacts the global and how the global impacts the local or what is known in Global Studies as the "Glocal" effect. In our present era of globalization it is crucial for the general public to understand how the new dynamics of the international system impact our lives here in Maine and how our local decisions impact the earth. These are my personal views, and they do not express those of the University of Maine System or the University of Maine.