The Progressive Post

EU leadership the best response to Trump climate challenge

The United States is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

14/07/2017

President Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change has been a long time coming, and the European Union is well prepared. While the United States is not legally able to withdraw from the Paris Agreement until November 2020, Trump’s announcement has multiple consequences.

Trump has ordered the cessation of federal efforts to implement the US Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris framework, nullifying the credibility of its emission reduction targets. The United States is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

 

Additionally, Trump has reneged on the $2 billion that the US had pledged to the Green Climate Fund but not yet paid, blowing a major hole in the $10 billion pledged so far. In doing so, Trump is effectively picking the pockets of communities in poorer countries that rely on international support to adapt to the effects of climate change and to build sustainable, low-emissions economies.

Finally, Trump’s stated intention to fundamentally renegotiate the Paris Agreement raises the possibility that American diplomats could be instructed to disrupt the current negotiation over the ‘Paris rulebook’. Whether this strategy is pursued or not should become apparent at the November climate conference in Bonn.

Trump’s stated intention to fundamentally renegotiate the Paris Agreement raises the possibility that American diplomats could be instructed to disrupt the current negotiation over the ‘Paris rulebook’

Trump’s announcement represents an abdication of climate responsibility by the US government, but not the United States as a whole. Since Trump’s announcement, the commitment of American states, cities and businesses to climate action has been reaffirmed through a number of initiatives, and the UN provides multiple opportunities for non-state actors to participate. These include the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action, the 2050 pathways platform for mid-century, low-emission strategies and the Global Climate Action Agenda.

There are further opportunities for non-state actors to participate in climate governance at the more programmatic level, such as through the Technical Examination Process to ramp up pre-2020 action on mitigation and adaptation and by providing technical assistance as network members of the Climate Technology Centre and Network. Financial and development institutions may also participate directly in the mobilisation of climate finance by becoming Accredited Entities of the Green Climate Fund.

For the EU, Trump’s position is both a practical and a normative challenge. The US assault on the Paris Agreement unsettles a painstakingly crafted ‘package deal’ in which all major countries and groups compromised to achieve a consensus. As Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström has written, ‘[t]he message from science is that we are all in this together: south and north, west and east’. Trump’s flouting of this common endeavour carries unpredictable consequences. No country has yet declared it will join the United States in going rogue, but the diplomacy to keep climate action ratcheting up instead of down is difficult even without the US headwind.

Trump’s rejection of climate cooperation also challenges the EU’s deep normative commitment to tackling climate change. This commitment is embedded at the highest level of EU law, with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union obliging the EU to promote measures at the international level to combat climate change. It is therefore appropriate that the European response to ‘make America great again’ is not an equally parochial rejoinder, but rather to ‘make our planet great again’.

The initial EU response to the US announcement has effectively contributed to maintaining the Paris consensus

The initial EU response to the US announcement has effectively contributed to maintaining the Paris consensus. The European Council has reaffirmed the commitment of EU Member States to the Paris Agreement. The European Council stated that the ‘Agreement remains a cornerstone of global efforts to effectively tackle climate change, and cannot be renegotiated’. In addition, the European Council announced its intention to ‘enhance cooperation with international partners’ and to work closely with non-state actors. Already, this work has yielded a broad united front with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and agreement with China and Canada to co-host a ministerial climate summit in September. A lot of work is going into strengthening EU-China cooperation, which will be vital for both implementing Paris and strengthening national commitments.

To sustain this momentum, much will depend on the reinvigoration of a progressive, Europeanist political leadership as represented by Emmanuel Macron, acting on the inescapable conclusion articulated by Angela Merkel that ‘we Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands’. The EU and international partners must leave the door open for the United States to re-engage under less short-sighted leadership, but meanwhile forge ahead without waiting to see how the Trump melodrama unfolds. The immediate response in Europe and elsewhere offers hope that this will occur. Building on this momentum will ensure that when it comes to effective global action on climate change, the Trump administration is a speed bump, not a roadblock.

Photo: Nicole S Glass / Shutterstock.com

Find all related publications
Publications
24/01/2024

Progressive Yearbook 2024

Looking back to look ahead
18/10/2023

Beyond humanitarian aid: the EU’s approach to alleviating food crisis in the Sahel at a time of global insecurity

'12 years of crises in the Sahel' series
06/07/2023

Towards a renewables scale-up that works for nature

Recovery Watch series
13/06/2023

Improving territorial justice

Transparency, inclusiveness, capacity building and strategy in the Territorial Just Transition Plans
Find all related events
Events
Past
16/02/2024
Sofia, Bulgaria

The cost of personal transition

Forum for Progressive left solutions
24/01/2024
FEPS HQ

Progressive Yearbook launch

07/12/2023
European Parliament (Hybrid)

A blueprint for a Social and Green Deal

Follow-up Event of the Beyond Growth Conference
Find all related news
News
24/01/2024

Spanish Minister Teresa Ribera awarded FEPS ‘Progressive Person of the Year’

11/07/2023

A new social contract for the well-being of people and the planet

Call to action on Just Transition
07/02/2023

New study on how and why social issues have increased in prominence during the EP negotiations

Progress towards inclusive economic transition but need for further improvements in terminology and framing of vulnerable groups
13/01/2023

New manifesto giving international impetus to Lula da Silva’s environmental policy

FEPS President, among the 50 scientists and former politicians from Brazil and Portugal who signed the manifesto
Find all related in the media
In the media

Teresa Ribera, premiada por su labor en política internacional

by El Plural 26/01/2024
Teresa Ribera has been recognized by FEPS with the 'Progressive Person of the Year' award during the launch of the 'Progressive Yearbook.' Article by El Plural

Teresa Ribera, premio ‘Pregressive person of the year’ por su labor en política internacional

by Europa Press 26/01/2024
Teresa Ribera has been recognized by FEPS with the 'Progressive Person of the Year' award during the launch of the 'Progressive Yearbook.' Article by Europa Press

Total honesty and far-right lies

by IPS Journal 04/12/2023
Dive into the insightful analysis published in IPS Journal by Tom Theuns, Assist. Prof at Leiden University, and László Andor, FEPS Secretary General, examining the Dutch election results and the conclusions that need to be drawn for a successful EU Integration

Just Transition: A new social contract for wellbeing of people and planet

by Euractiv 11/07/2023
Euractiv's article ahead of the high-level expert meeting on Just Transition in Valladolid, organized by FEPS, Solidar, and other think tanks and civil society organizations.