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The start of a new age?

November 10, 2016

[Image: Donald Trump, President–elect of the USA | © The Newcastle Herald] 

 

Having spent the last 3 months' grimly predicting a Trump presidency, I didn't realise quite how much I was hoping to be wrong until the little patch of map on the Guardian's live election results site that is Pennsylvania turned red yesterday to confirm he really was going to succeed President Obama as the 45th President.

 

Like a large proportion of the world, I've since been trying to both come to terms with what it could mean for the US and broader world, whilst also shaking my head in disbelief that it's actually happened.

 

Some of the commentary around what it means for women has been particularly poignant for me given I named my business after my 2 daughters, but the general sense of gloom over what this could mean for global action on climate change has also struck home.

 

I'm not naive enough to say it won't have any impact, clearly it will. But my natural optimism is tempering the overwhelming inclination to view Trump's ascendancy as a significant and long–lasting threat to the hard–won progress of the last decade (particularly last year's Paris agreement).

 

Given his anti–climate bluster during his election campaign, clearly he's not going to be progressive on this particular issue; but given everything else on his plate I'm also not convinced it's going to be that much of a priority for his Presidency (also a double–edged sword, but given his views the next 4 years will in reality be about neutralising his impact wherever possible).

 

But, most significantly, I'm also not convinced that climate policy is really where the most effective, impactful and fast solutions (or the all–important momentum for change) are going to be in the next 5 years.

 

I've long viewed the need for policy that allows climate solutions to be accelerated as important, but not necessarily the be–all and end–all of solving the climate crisis. At the moment, the momentum for change seems to be sitting with the rapidly declining cost of low–carbon technologies, the shift in institutional investment away from high–carbon energy sources and more localised solutions at the City and local–administrative level (the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities initiative is a great example of this). As the money and momentum continues to shift this way, administrations and Governments (including the US and, indeed, Australia) will have little choice but to legislate to try and keep up with this shift (in my opinion).

 

That's not to say Trump's election isn't significant – it is, particularly given it's happened right in the middle of this year's COP in Marrakech – but I fear his impact may be much more significantly negative in areas away from climate change; whether that be in the area of racial and gender equality, global inclusiveness or basic international diplomacy. And, let's be frank, his overall approach to life is a long way away from the belief (enshrined in the US Constitution) that all of us 'are created equal'. Mind you, as Khizr Khan famously said in the lead up to yesterday's election, has he 'even read the United States Constitution?'

 

So as I sit back and reflect on yesterday's US election, I find myself wondering if this point in our history will perhaps be viewed as the real start–point for a new age in climate action.

 

The point when we really did hit rock–bottom from the point of view of political leadership, but also the point when technological innovation, low–carbon investment, city/regional and grassroots action truly stepped up to start to shift our world towards the zero–carbon future that awaits us.

 

In the aftermath of yesterday's result, many will be wondering if we can still accelerate the solutions we need, if we can still find ways to work together to create a future worthy of our children, if we can still find a way to build the world humanity needs to prosper.

 

To borrow some words from a certain Barack Obama spoken just 8 years ago, 'Yes we can.'

 

 

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