The European Union and China plan to reaffirm their commitment to the implementation of the Paris climate deal during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Brussels on Friday, in a bilateral effort to shore up the historic agreement against mounting US opposition.
Mr. Li and EU Council President Donald Tusk will sign an agreement on broad cooperation between China and the EU to implement the Paris deal’s climate goals, Handelsblatt has learned. Specific measures include support for renewables, energy efficiency and the creation of an emissions-trading system in China. Europe can “contribute valuable knowledge” in all these fields, a diplomat with knowledge of the pending agreement told Handelsblatt.
China and Europe want to prevent the Paris deal from unraveling in the event that US President Donald Trump makes good on his campaign promise to withdraw. Beijing and Brussels are concerned that if they do not lend political muscle to the agreement, large developing nations such as India, Brazil and the Gulf states might follow Washington’s lead.
“If the US makes this decision, it does not mean the end for the climate agreement.”
As the leader of the G20 this year, Germany is playing a key role in diplomatic efforts to shore up the accord. Chinese Premier Li arrived in Berlin on Wednesday to hold talks with Ms. Merkel before setting off for Brussels for the China-EU summit. The German government is confidant that the Paris deal can still be effective even without US participation.
“If the US makes this decision, it does not mean the end for the climate agreement,” German government sources told Handelsblatt. The US is responsible for 14 percent of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions. The rest of the world can still regulate the other 86 percent, the sources said.
At at G7 summit last weekend, Mr. Trump declined to join the other six members in a joint statement reaffirming the goals of the Paris deal. The US president, without informing the G7 leaders beforehand, announced over Twitter that he will make his final decision about the agreement this week. Multiple US media outlets, citing sources close to the administration, are reporting that Mr. Trump intends to walk away from the agreement.
Experts such as Ottmar Edenhofer, a world-renowned climate economist, do not expect a US withdrawal to trigger a domino effect. But a withdrawal will send a “catastrophic signal for multilateralism,” Mr. Edenhofer said, “and an extremely negative signal far beyond climate policy.” US unilateralism would also set back diplomatic efforts on trade and the regulation of financial markets, according to Mr. Edenhoffer, who is affiliated with Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
The US, however, would stand virtually alone in the world in its rejection of the agreement, which has been signed by 195 nations. Kristin Reissig, a climate expert with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said even Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, is making progress on climate policy. And key US states such as California plan to implement the goals of the Paris agreement regardless of Mr. Trump’s decision, she said.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it will be much harder for the United States to leave the Paris deal than Mr. Trump believes. Mr. Juncker, speaking to a conference on the future of Europe in Berlin, said it would take years for the US to leave all the obligations in the deal, according to Reuters news agency.
“Chancellor Angela Merkel faces major challenges holding everyone together. She has an opportunity at the G20 summit in July.”
During the weekend G7 meetings, Mr. Trump butted heads in particular with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a staunch supporter of the agreement. Berlin had hoped to gradually convince Mr. Trump to back the deal in time for the G20 summit in Hamburg in July. But on Monday, Ms. Merkel said the encounter demonstrated just how “long and rocky” the road to implementing the deal will be.
“Chancellor Angela Merkel faces major challenges holding everyone together,” Mr. Edenhofer said. “She has an opportunity at the G20 summit in July.”
With the G20 just two months away, Ms. Merkel is trying to forge deeper alliances beyond the United States, Germany’s traditional partner. She met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday in Berlin. Mr. Modi, in an exclusive interview with Handelsblatt, promised New Delhi’s support for Berlin’s G20 agenda, including on climate.
“We commend Germany’s G20 priorities of resilience, youth, Africa’s development, health, climate and Agenda 2030 (sustainable development goals),” Mr. Modi told Handelsblatt. “India will extend full support for a successful outcome.”
Ms. Merkel, during a joint press conference with Mr. Modi, was asked if Mr. Trump is driving Germany into the arms of Asian partners: “Trans-Atlantic relations are of outstanding importance, independent what specific discussions there are,” the chancellor said.
Till Hoppe reports on politics for Handelsblatt. Moritz Koch has been Handelsblatt’s Washington correspondent since 2013. Stephan Scheuer is Handelsblatt’s China correspondent, based in Beijing. Klaus Stratmann is deputy chief of Handelsblatt’s political desk in Berlin. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com