China called it “irresponsible,” Europeans said there would be “political implications” and environmentalists said the world faced a “climate disaster” and “the world would pay the price in tears” for the president’s decision.
Sounds a lot like the reaction to President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord, but these were actually statements made by critics of former President George W. Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.
About 16 years ago, Bush announced that he would continue opposing the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first binding global warming treaty, largely on the grounds that it would hurt the U.S. economy and allow China and India to continue emitting greenhouse gases.
”The world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China,” Bush said in June 2001. ”Yet China was entirely exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. India and Germany are among the top emitters. Yet India was also exempt from Kyoto.”
Bush also said the Kyoto Protocol would ”have a negative economic impact, with layoffs of workers and price increases for consumers,” the New York Times reported at the time.
Outrage ensued. China’s foreign minister said Bush’s decision was “irresponsible.” China joined the Kyoto Protocol as a developing country, meaning they were not committed to reduce emissions. Neither did India.
European leaders criticized Bush and urged him to do more to fight global warming. Europeans also reaffirmed their commitment to following the Kyoto Protocol without the U.S., even though they admitted it would be less effective.
“It is important that the US accepts its responsibility for the world climate. They are the biggest economy in the world and the heaviest energy consumers,” European Union Commissioner Margaret Schröder told the Los Angeles Times in 2001.
Environmentalists were probably the most outraged. When Bush announced his intention to rebuke the Kyoto Protocol, which was voted down by the Senate, activists claimed that “the world would pay the price in tears.”
“Millions of people — in the US as well as in other countries — face the loss of their homes, their jobs and even their lives because of climate change,” said Charles Secrett, director of the U.K. branch of Friends of the Earth.
“But this ignorant, short-sighted and selfish politician, long since firmly jammed into the pockets of the oil lobby, clearly couldn’t care less,” Secrett said in a statement.
Fast forward 16 years, and it’s clear that a similar story is transpiring.
Trump announced Thursday that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, largely along the same lines that Bush laid out in 2001.
The Paris accord, Trump said, would impose economically harmful cuts on U.S. industries while letting China and India continue to emit more.
The outrage against Trump’s decision was just as loud, if not louder. China and European leaders, who had spent months urging Trump to stay in the deal, pledged to strengthen their commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy,” EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told the Guardian.
Separately, China called Trump’s decision a “global setback,” and environmentalists railed against the administration.
“By denying climate change and failing to act, Trump has put us on a path beset with increased famine, poverty, disease and death for millions of people in the U.S. and across the globe,” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.
It should also be noted the Kyoto Protocol did little to stop the inexorable rise of carbon dioxide emissions, mostly because of China and India.