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US exit from Paris deal marks end of influence in South Pacific

For island states, climate pact is a matter of life and death

| Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands
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A boy stands on top of a seawall near the village of Tangintebu on South Tarawa in Kiribati.   © Reuters

President Donald Trump has unapologetically withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Consequently, the U.S. joins only Syria and Nicaragua as a non-signatory to the treaty. Syria is amidst a horrific civil war and sanctions mean it is hard for many government officials to travel. Nicaragua refused to sign because, as a developing country listed as fourth most affected by extreme weather events, it felt the deal did not go far enough. It took the moral position that it could not be a signatory to an agreement that would not do enough to lower global temperature increases.

Trump's announcement has provided many world leaders with an opportunity to offer an alternative view of the world, particularly in Europe where patience for the president's unstatesmanlike behavior is wearing thin. However, it is in the South Pacific that America's abrogation of responsibility is generating the most concern. For many of the smaller island states, climate change is not a matter of opinion but a very real existential threat. As such, Trump's stance on the Paris accord may mark an unrecoverable loss of influence for the U.S. in the region.

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