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Analysis

Trump’s climate policies are so bad even Putin is trolling him

“Our American colleagues strongly oppose even mentioning the Paris climate agreement."

President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. CREDIT: HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/AFP/Getty Images.
President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. CREDIT: HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/AFP/Getty Images.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he is “currently planning to ratify” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the state news agency Tass reported Tuesday.

In Paris, 197 nations of the world unanimously agreed to keep ratcheting down carbon pollution to keep total warming “well below 2°C” (3.6°F). The United States under President Donald Trump is the only major nation to subsequently reject the agreement with an announcement in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the accord.

Speaking at the International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Putin trolled the United States for its repeated inaction on climate. He noted that Russia had also ratified an earlier climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. had not.

Speaking at the same forum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also mocked Trump’s plan to abandon the Paris Accord and his refusal to even take the matter seriously.

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“Our American colleagues strongly oppose even mentioning the Paris Climate Agreement in the strategy” being developed for the Arctic region at the meeting, he said. “All others are confident that the strategy will be watered down if we fail to do that. So serious work lies ahead.”

What makes Putin’s and Lavrov’s comments particularly galling is that Russia has never been supportive of strong climate action. With so much of the country’s revenue coming from oil and gas, Russia doesn’t share the Paris goal of leaving most of the world fossil fuels in the ground.

Putin said on Tuesday that “Russia pledged to reduce emissions 25-30% compared to the 1990 levels,” and then added, “That’s a heavy burden.”

But in reality Russia’s target does not even require them to cut carbon pollution at all from current levels — since their emissions had plunged 34 percent after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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“The target is so weak” explains the independent group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) “we have given Russia our lowest rating: “Critically Insufficient.” The group points out that because Russia’s current Paris target is starting from such a low point, it will instead “allow emissions to grow 6–24% above 2016 levels by 2020 and 15–22% by 2030.”

In normal times, Russia would be seen as one of the climate change pariah nations and would not be able to lecture any country about climate inaction. But these are far from normal times, and thanks to President Trump, the United States is now the climate pariah, hellbent on speeding up climate catastrophe.