CLIMATE RETREAT

Trump Ignores World Concerns

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The temperature will only change by this much. Picture source: Reuters

US President Donald Trump has announced that the United States, the world’s second-largest carbon-dioxide emitter, will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, rebuffing fierce objections from America’s closest partners, including Germany.

But Mr. Trump, who prides himself on being a dealmaker, said his administration would begin negotiations to re-enter the agreement on more favorable terms to the United States. The president cited the cost of the agreement to American businesses, workers and taxpayers as the reason for the US withdrawal.

“We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Mr. Trump said.

Opposition to Mr. Trump’s position was swift. The leaders of France, Germany and Italy, in a rare joint statement, quickly rejected Mr. Trump’s calls for the deal to be renegotiated.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the leaders of the euro zone’s three-largest economies said.

The president’s decision comes hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate agreement during bilateral talks in Berlin. Ms. Merkel said China “had become a more important strategic partner” for Germany.

Mr. Trump and Ms. Merkel butted heads over climate change at the G7 summit in Italy last weekend. After the summit, Ms. Merkel said the era when Europe could rely on others was over somewhat, widely interpreted as a reference to the United States, and said Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands.

On Monday, Ms. Merkel met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and praised New Delhi’s efforts to implement the climate pact. Mr. Li arrived in Berlin on Wednesday, his first stop in a trip to Europe this week. He will head to Brussels for the EU-China summit on Friday.

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Hallo China. Picture source: Reuters

The European Union and China plan to reaffirm their commitment to the implementation of the Paris climate deal during Mr. Li’s visit, in a bilateral effort to shore up the historic agreement against US opposition.

The European Commission, the EU executive, expressed regret over the “unilateral decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement,” and said it would “strengthen its existing partnerships and seek new alliances from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states.”

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 now that the US president has made 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.”

Handelsblatt sources, German government

As the leader of the G20 this year, Germany is playing a key role in diplomatic efforts to shore up the accord. The German government is confident 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 the 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 would make his final decision about the agreement this week.

Experts such as Ottmar Edenhofer, a world-renowned climate economist, do not expect the 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 stands 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.”

Ottmar Edenhofer, Climate economist, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

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 disagreements at the G7 demonstrated just how “long and rocky” the road to implement 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. Spencer Kimball is a Chicago-based editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the authors: hoppe@handelsblatt.com, koch@handelsblatt.com, scheuer@handelsblatt.com, stratmann@handelsblatt.coms.kimball@extern.vhb.de

 

 

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