A former U.S. Department of Interior official will be attending the United Nations climate conference in Germany next week on the Swedish dime. He won’t be representing the U.S. government, but he will be representing our country’s best interests—namely, speaking out about the Trump administration’s “war on science.”
Joel Clement was director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the DOI before he was involuntarily reassigned in July, along with several dozen senior staff members, “to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies,” as he put it in a popular Washington Post op-ed at the time.
“I am not an accountant—but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up,” he wrote, elaborating that he believes he was reassigned for speaking out publicly about how climate change will impact Alaskan Native communities.
“It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government,” Clement wrote.
In early October, Clement resigned his position entirely, telling CNN he could no longer justify staying in the civil service as the “checkmarks in the cons column just kept adding up.”
Now, thanks to Sweden’s government and the Stockholm Environment Institute, Clement will have another chance to address an international audience about the U.S.’s approach to climate change. This time around, that audience is likely to be more captivated than ever by what Clement has to say, as the U.S. is quickly becoming a rogue state in the effort to confront climate change, after holding a central leadership role under the Obama administration.
Clement told Bloomberg he plans to discuss the “absurd war on science and fact” in the U.S. federal government during the 10-day conference, which is the annual centerpiece of global climate discussions.
This year’s summit, where representatives will work on a “rule book” to go along with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, will still include a large delegation from the U.S. even as Trump has pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. Unfortunately for Trump, the agreement stipulates that no country can exit before 2020. In the meantime, Trump reps will promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy at the upcoming climate summit, according to the New York Times. Many countries—while dismayed by the United States’ current stance—hope U.S. participation can be salvaged somehow down the line, as the problem of climate change will far outlast the problem of Trump.
When Trump first announced his intention to exit the agreement in June, Sweden’s foreign affairs minister didn’t waste time responding on behalf of her country. She called Trump’s withdrawal “a decision to leave humanity’s last chance of securing our children’s future on this planet.”
Sweden has been on Trump’s case regarding climate change since shortly after he was inaugurated in late January, when the country passed a new law binding future governments to cut all greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. It was seen as a direct response to the U.S. potentially wavering on its global climate commitments. In order to further accentuate the difference in leadership style between two countries, Sweden’s environment and development aid minister, Isabella Lövin, signed the bill amidst a group of female colleagues—no men present.
Because, obviously, that’s something Trump would never do.