They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. So when Theresa May was snapped holding hands with Donald Trump at the White House it told a clear story – May intends for the UK to walk hand in hand with Trump’s America. But with the G7 leaders meeting this week, the question is, how far will May really follow Trump?
Two years ago, it was the G7 that laid the groundwork for the historic Paris climate agreement. Now Trump is trying to bully the world’s biggest economies to drop their ambition to phase out carbon pollution, which is the only way to stop climate catastrophe. Not content with gutting environmental protections in the US, he is brazenly threatening this landmark deal and our future.
Reassuringly, there is a massive global effort happening right now to isolate Trump and limit the damage of his climate broadside. One hundred countries, including China, India, Europe and even oil-rich Saudi Arabia, have spoken in defence of the deal and pledged to continue with or without the US.
The Conservative party just launched their manifesto vowing to step up their international leadership on climate. The first test of that leadership will be at the G7, where May faces a difficult political calculation – stand up to Trump on climate change or stay silent in the expectation of getting the UK a better trade deal post-Brexit. But there is a sliver of hope – Scotland can provide May with the clarity and courage she’ll need to take on America.
Scotland is fortunate enough to have cross-party consensus on climate action. But Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, is best positioned to change May’s mind. She’s called for more renewable energy and electric cars in Scotland, and, with the Conservatives hoping for a Scottish breakthrough in the election, right now she has the Prime Minister’s ear.
What better way to show Scotland that the Tories really have changed than for her to pick up the phone to the Prime Minister and call on her to firmly commit with the G7 next week to ambitious climate policies. Making that call would be an act of leadership, not just for Scotland, but for the world – not an opportunity that comes along often for a Scottish Tory.
This is one of those rare political moments when one person actually can make a world of difference. Germany, Italy, France and Canada – along with hundreds of businesses, cities and investors – are all trying to stop Mr Trump. So he’s hoping for May’s support to ensure he’s not completely isolated at the G7. Davidson can send a signal to May that letting Trump write the entire planet’s death warrant is not in the UK’s interests and certainly not in Scotland’s.
The Scottish people have made it very clear how they feel about the climate issue. Scotland is already a champion in clean energy, which is providing thousands of jobs, and 70 per cent of Scots want to see strong action on climate change.
If her past statements are to be believed, Davidson already knows this. She’s said that climate change is a threat to our economy, our environment and our prosperity. But the Conservatives in Scotland have said a lot of things that most Scots didn’t believe they would follow through on. If Davidson wants people’s votes, this is a perfect opportunity for her to put her words into action.
The overwhelming majority of countries recognise that responding to the climate crisis can invigorate their economies and reshape the landscape for a cleaner, greener future. The new Conservative manifesto vows to offer the international leadership needed, but the question remains whether May will bring that leadership to the G7 or pursue a hand in hand policy with President Trump to undermine that future. Millions around the world want the richest nations to recommit to the urgent action we need on climate. If Ruth Davidson is serious about leading in Scotland, she’ll speak out before Trump leads us by the hand towards global climate catastrophe.
Iain Keith, born in Aberdeen, is a Campaign Director with the global civic movement Avaaz. He has been shaping UN global climate negotiations for over a decade, and was one of the leaders behind the People’s Climate March, the single largest climate mobilisation in history