Trump’s climate policy ‘regressive and pernicious’, says Higgins

Impact of global tax avoidance by multinationals also criticised in speech

President Michael D Higgins speaking at EPSU trade union congress in the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: Jack Power

President Michael D Higgins speaking at EPSU trade union congress in the RDS, Dublin. Photograph: Jack Power

 

President Michael D Higgins has criticised his US counterpart Donald Trump’s policy on climate change as “regressive and pernicious” on the eve of his visit to Ireland.

Mr Higgins said the US should be urged to reverse its decision to withdraw from the international 2015 Paris accord, which sets targets for countries to reduce emissions in order to lessen the impact of global warming.

“While the EU has a set of binding emissions targets for 2020 and 2030, we must now plan for full decarbonisation of our European economies by 2050, encouraging the rest of the world to follow suit, and urging in the strongest possible terms the USA to re-consider its regressive and pernicious decision to leave the global Paris Agreement,” he said.

The speech, a significant intervention ahead of Mr Trump’s visit, was delivered at the 10th conference of the European Federation of Public Service Unions, held in the RDS, Dublin on Tuesday.

Those who were currently excluded in society were “being abandoned to become the prey of xenophobes, homophobes and racists”, Mr Higgins said.

He said global tax avoidance by multinational firms was impacting the “sustainability of public finances” and as a result public services.

In his speech, Mr Higgins was also strongly critical of the employment conditions of some workers in the technology sector.

“We see online workers often are not covered by employment law or collective agreements and seldom have access to social security, paid leave or paid training, owing to the fact the platforms require workers to register as self employed,” he said.

‘Worst practices’

The practices, often set out under the “cloak of supposed innovation,” were nothing less than a return to “some of the worst practices of the 19th century,” Mr Higgins said.

The “climate crisis” was the most pressing issue facing the global community, Mr Higgins said, with the “unrestricted consumption” of the Earth’s resources putting the planet’s future in peril.

The wide ranging speech also appeared to sharply criticise the previous Fine Gael-Labour government’s policy of austerity as “self-defeating”.

The effect of the policy was to compound the financial crisis into an economic depression, Mr Higgins said.

“The economic recession of 2008 turned into an economic depression in 2009, with an economic recovery delayed until 2014,” Mr Higgins said.

He said an over-reliance on “bogus expertise” and the “economic orthodoxy of today” gave rise to the financial crash, and also featured in the response to the crisis.

The President said the policy of austerity, significantly cutting back public expenditure, resulted in a range of “social ills”, many of which “have not yet been resolved”.

‘Materialism’

“We must avoid the excessive materialism that was apparent, for example, in this country during the so-called Celtic Tiger, and that we move away from narcissistic individualism and towards collective solidarity,” he told the crowd of union delegates.

Ireland had seen the “catastrophic and sometimes tragic effects” of under regulation or lack of enforcement, in sectors such as finance, construction, and healthcare, Mr Higgins said.

In his congress speech, Fórsa general secretary designate Kevin Callinan said trade unions would “quickly lose any relevance they have for young people” if they fail to lead on climate change.

He said trade unions must go beyond representing their members and advocate for the “difficult actions needed to confront the single most catastrophic threat facing humanity”.

“We must adapt the way we eat, the way we shop, the ways we travel, how we use energy and water, the homes we live in, and the way we throw away our rubbish,” Mr Callinan said.