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21st Jul 2018

Juncker mauls Trump ahead of climate decision

  • Juncker (l) spoke on a visit to Germany (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said US leader Donald Trump does not know what he is doing on climate ahead of Trump's decision on the Paris accord.

He said in Berlin on Wednesday (31 May) that Trump did not “fully understand” the Paris climate deal even though EU leaders tried to “explain” it to him “in clear, simple sentences” at a recent summit in Italy.

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  • Merkel (c) said EU could no longer depend on US after Italy talks (Photo: G7 Summit)

He also said it would take the US four years to exit the pact even if Trump announced the U-turn, as feared, on Thursday.

“This notion - ‘I'm Trump. I'm American. America first, so I’m going to get out of it.’ - that's not going to happen", Juncker said at an event in the German capital organised by a German employers’ group, the BDA.

"We tried to explain this in clear, simple sentences to Mr Trump in Taormina [Italy], but it would appear that he didn’t understand".

“Mr. Trump … doesn’t get close enough to the dossiers to fully understand them”, the EU Commission chief said.

Trump announcement

Trump is to announce his decision on Paris, a 197-nation accord to slow global warming, in the White House rose garden at 3PM local time (9PM in Brussels) on Thursday.

He told reporters on Wednesday that he had not yet made up his mind.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people both ways, both ways,” he told press after meeting the Vietnamese prime minister in Washington.

The US is the world’s second biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China.

Its exit from the Paris accord would make it “far more likely that we will breach the danger limit” on global warming, according to Michael Oppenheimer, a US scientist who was part of a UN panel that established the scientific consensus on climate change.

“We will see more extreme heat, damaging storms, coastal flooding, and risks to food security,” Oppenheimer told the New York Times, a US newspaper, on Wednesday.

Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament president, said: “Climate change is not a fairy tale”.

“People die or are obliged to leave their homes because of desertification, lack of water, exposure to disease, extreme weather conditions".

China pledge

The EU and China, at a summit in Brussels on Friday, plan to reaffirm their commitment to Paris no matter what Trump says.

Top EU officials, including Juncker, and Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang, plan to say in a joint statement that “The EU and China underline their highest political commitment to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement in all its aspects”.

The draft communique, which was leaked to press on Wednesday, added: “The Paris Agreement is proof that with shared political will and mutual trust, multilateralism can succeed in building fair and effective solutions”.

The EU Council president, Donald Tusk, also said in a tweet to Trump: “Please don't change the (political) climate for the worse.”

If Trump did pull out, the US would join Nicaragua and Syria as the only non-Paris states on the world stage.

It takes a country four years to withdraw under the terms of the treaty, but the US could shorten that to one year by exiting from an underlying UN accord from 1992.

Coal lobby

Trump's decision comes amid pressure by the US coal lobby.

Coal firms such as Murray Energy and coal producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia have urged him to abandon the Paris commitments.

On the other side, parts of the US could opt in to the treaty, according to Jerry Brown, the governor of California, speaking in the Los Angeles Times, a US newspaper, on Thursday.

“California will do everything it can not only to stay the course but to build more support in other states”, he said.

US oil and gas firms Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips urged Trump to stay in the Paris club so that he could shape its future actions.

CEOs from 24 leading US firms, including tech giants Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft also urged him to stay.

For their part, scientists at Swansea and Aberystwyth universities in the UK warned that rising temperatures will shortly see a huge iceberg split from Antarctica.

The researchers, who are monitoring the so called Larsen C ice shelf, said on Thursday there was just 12km of ice left before a crack broke off a piece of ice two times the size of Juncker’s home country, Luxembourg.

Juncker keen to build EU 'bridge' to Trump

The European Commission wants to “build bridges” between the EU and the US amid the negative fallout from last week’s meetings, it has said.

US leaves Paris climate deal

Trump said Paris deal “punishes the United States”, even though treaty leaves it up to nations to determine own climate contribution.

EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'

EU leaders and Japanese prime minister signed a series of agreements, including the EU's biggest trade deal ever, designed as an answer to the disruption of the world order by the US president.

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