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    Trump's Paris decision is bad for technological development

    Güven Sak, PhD04 June 2017 - Okunma Sayısı: 1241

    No wonder Elon Musk left his advisory role in the Trump White House. Trump’s Paris decision is not only bad for life on this planet, but also for the pace of technological change. In spite of the Bannon Royal Family and Republican factions in the Trump White House, none of them seem to be concerned with the economy or technological development. That is bad for us all.

    During the Chinese presidency of the G-20 in 2016, the focus of the global jobs and growth agenda shifted toward innovation. Innovation-based growth put forward a technology transfer and technology diffusion enhancing global structural reform agenda. Finally there was focus. The Paris Climate deal was part and parcel of the global agenda. I was expecting a process where growth would be delinked from carbon emissions forever. And then came Donald the Trump.

    In 2016, there were 195 countries that signed the Paris climate deal. Later on, 147 of the parties ratified the agreement, representing 84 percent of global emissions, including the U.S. Now Trump has decided to remove his country’s signature and annul the ratification. That will definitely make it harder for the climate deal to be operational, as the Green Climate Fund cannot easily be established. So is everything finished? No. A country that signed and ratified the deal cannot just leave the agreement. The earliest date to leave the agreement will be Nov. 4, 2020. Yet the damage is done, if you ask me.

    In the past, every question on environmental sustainability brought forth a debate on who is going to pay the price. I remember even Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang asking the same question. Now look at China. Why? There was a one-to-one correspondence between growth and carbon emissions at the time. Not anymore. Now increasing growth does not necessarily lead to increasing carbon emissions, thanks to new technologies like biotechnology, nanotechnology and information and communication technologies.

    This brings us to a new incentive compatible situation where technology transfer and knowledge sharing have become mutually acceptable, both for developed and developing countries. There is now a possible use for the climate funds, if you ask me. It could now be used for paying the royalties that need to be paid to innovative companies as new technologies are making the production process more sustainable.

    Two results may come out of this stupid decision, if you ask me, leaving aside the overall climate impact. First, the debate for non-carbon based growth and technology transfers might be negatively influenced, as the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund may take more time without U.S. involvement. Second, whether this decision could negatively influence the U.S. lead in advanced manufacturing technologies or NIR remains to be seen. Considering that there is a president who considers climate change a Chinese hoax, this decision may well hamper the U.S. lead in technology creation as well. Hence this is not only bad for humanity, it is also bad for the Americans. If Germany and China could take the lead in getting the fund running, then it might be possible to control the first impact more easily.

    When I was a kid, Fidel Castro was a symbol of the backlash against globalization. Now we have Donald the Trump. If Castro’s Cuba provided the occasional pothole along the road, Trump’s America is the drunk driver in the lane next to you. The age of global reckless driving is here to stay. Watch out.

    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 03.06.2017

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