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UK 'should lead innovation' in wake of Trump's Paris pull out

Donald trump by gage skidmore

Engineering and renewable energy experts have said that despite US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement being a “disaster”, Europe and China should seize the opportunity to lead green innovation.

On June 1, President Trump announced the US will be leaving the Paris agreement, a voluntary arrangement between 195 countries to stop global temperatures rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Engineering and energy professionals have been quick to condemn Trump’s actions, highlighting the negative impact pulling out of the Paris agreement will have on the US.

“It is an utter disaster for America. The most innovative, entrepreneurial country in the world is rejecting science,” Tidal Lagoon Power’s Swansea Bay chair and former Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke told New Civil Engineer.

However, he added that China and European countries like the UK should make the most of the situation.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for the UK and Europe, and China, to lead in innovation in the next industrial revolution,” he said, adding that British engineers need to play a bigger role in fighting climate change.

“For the engineering community, we just aren’t moving quickly enough. We have the science, we have enough science: we don’t have the engineering.”

Co-director of the Sussex Energy Group and senior lecturer at Sussex University, Florian Kern, said the global shift towards renewable energy will continue without the US.

“My first reaction is that it’s kind of a disappointing and extremely irresponsible decision, but also one that has literally no winners,” he said.

“He can cancel Paris all he wants: coal mining is not coming back.”

Kern added that leaving the Paris agreement will isolate the US on the world stage, leaving the door open for China to lead the way in green energy production.

“It [US withdrawal] is a bad sign, but I don’t think it will derail global progress,” he said.

Meanwhile Tesla chief executive and tunnelling entrepreneur Elon Musk has resigned from presidential advisory councils in protest.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth called on the next UK prime minister to “show leadership” in the wake of Trump’s decision and to abandon fracking plans.

“Friends of the Earth will campaign vigorously against any trade deal with the US. Why should they get to profit from trade with the UK, when their actions will result in more people dying from extreme weather around the world, contribute to ever more serious refugee crises, and cause increased flooding and disruption here in the UK?” said Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett.

“Whoever becomes the next UK Prime Minister, they must now show leadership on climate action – starting by catching up with the rest of the world on renewables, and abandoning ill-advised plans to force fracking on communities.”

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) said it rejected the “discredited notion climate action comes at the expense of economic growth”.

“The UK Green Building Council is proud to stand together with our colleagues in over 70 countries, including the US, with a global network of 32,000 member businesses around the world,” said a spokesperson for the UK-GBC.

“We see the evidence on a daily basis that progressive businesses, working in partnership with ambitious policy-makers, are creating low carbon, resilient and healthy places for people to live and work. The nations, regions, cities and businesses that will thrive in the future understand and embrace the climate challenge.”

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