Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

Opinion

G20 is 'test run' for Trump-era climate governance

  • Some feared a domino effect when US president Trump pulled out of the Paris climate deal. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Weeks after US president Donald Trump announced the US' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the debate is still raging on in regard to the possible implications of his decision.

Some fear a global domino effect, with more countries renouncing climate protection pledges and ceasing domestic emission reduction efforts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Others argue that the Paris accord's architecture is sufficiently resilient, and that efforts to keep global temperature increases to "well below 2°C" – as stipulated by the agreement – will endure.

Activities at the sub-national level in the US also seem to support the argument that the agreement will prevail and domestic opponents of Trump’s decision have mobilised remarkably quickly.

Cities and states with progressive climate policies joined forces across the US, committing themselves to honouring the Paris agreement.

For instance, support came via the bipartisan "US Climate Alliance" of states – including heavyweights such as California and New York – and the "We Are Still In" initiative, which involves hundreds of businesses, investors, and institutes of higher education.

Moreover, these sub-national players are linking up with leading nations to create innovative climate diplomacy networks: California and China have held talks to collaborate on emission reduction efforts, while several US states have intensified climate cooperation with Canada.

Though these developments enhance the Paris agreement’s chances of survival, they will not be enough.

Fight for survival

The resilience of the agreement hinges on how other major emitters will react to Trump’s break.

To pursue effective global climate governance, these countries must repeat the steps taken in the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate meeting, where a strategy of "multiple bilateralism" between US-China, China-India and China-EU (among others) served to build trust and resolve crunch issues.

The emerging consensus among key emitters was translated into cooperation in the world’s club governance fora (G7, G20) and fed into the multilateral negotiations, leading to the Paris agreement’s ultimate entry into force.

True to this spirit, six members (plus the EU) were already pressuring the US to remain committed to the Paris agreement at the recent G7 summit in Sicily. Not that it seemed to do much good, as Trump withdrew from the climate pact a few days later.

The next litmus test for effective global climate governance comes in July, when leaders from countries accounting for 80% of global emissions meet for the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on 7-8 July.

With the US thrusting itself into isolation, the German G20 presidency will seek to gather the broadest possible support for the Paris agreement.

But a question remains: is a G20 entente possible?

It might be, if others show the way.

Climate leaders

From the G7, the EU and Canada display the clearest leadership ambitions.

EU heavyweights have signalled their "strongest commitment" to uphold their pledges to combat climate change.

In his reaction to Trump’s Paris exit, Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, confirmed his country's "unwavering commitment to fight climate change".

The Canadian government has also vehemently denied recent reports that Trudeau wished to scrap references to climate from the draft G20 declaration, in order to appease the US government.

But leaders need followers. And whether followers can be mobilised depends on how G20 members define their interests – economically and politically.

Economically, many G20 countries appear to believe the energy transition – accelerated by the Paris Agreement – must continue.

Investing in low-carbon development is no longer seen as a burden on growth prospects. If anything, there is a growing consensus that Trump’s decision will put the US at risk of lagging behind technologically.

Politically, the relationship between G20 countries and the US (particularly the Trump administration) is tricky.

Are countries like Australia, Japan, Turkey and the UK willing to risk relations with the president of a key ally by adopting a confrontational attitude over climate change?

The answer depends heavily on whether the German G20 presidency can dispel their concerns by convincingly demonstrating that the world is changing – because it is.

Changing world

At an EU-China summit the day after Trump’s announcement, a draft joint declaration on climate change characterised the Paris Agreement as “an historic achievement further accelerating the irreversible global low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient development” and outlined numerous joint actions.

Although it was ultimately withheld due to trade-related differences, this declaration contains the blueprint for a shifting centre of gravity in global climate governance to Eurasia.

If supported by India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has reiterated support for the Paris Agreement, a solid pro-climate coalition including three of the world’s top four emitters would emerge.

Cooperation with Canada, and with the sub-national forces in the US, could then provide additional momentum to convince other G20 members.

As a major guiding forum, the G20 represents a test run for the future of global climate governance during the Trump era.

The direction this governance will take, depends heavily on the strength of emerging partnerships, and their ability to convince others to join them regardless of US policies.

If the will is robust enough, this "multiple bilateralism" could bring about the dawn of a new era, and the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.

If it fails, however, global climate politics faces a complicated, daunting future.

Dr Simon Schunz is a Research Fellow at the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), and a professor of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies at the College of Europe in Bruges. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Leuven.

Focus

EU-China united on climate, divided on trade

Within 24 hours of Trump announcing that the US will pull out of the Paris climate accord, EU and Chinese leaders presented a united front on fighting climate change. But divergence on trade plagues the new alliance.

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.

No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected

Following the 2030 renewable target of 32 percent, chair of the European Parliament's environment committee Adina Valean argues in order to reach our climate and energy goals, we need both public and private investment over the next decade and beyond.

News in Brief

  1. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  2. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  3. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law
  4. Open Society Foundation takes Hungary to court
  5. EU court asked to rule on halting Brexit
  6. EU threatens Switzerland on stock trading
  7. Italy's new basic wage restricted to Italians
  8. UK tycoon offers to create pro-Brexit party

Will the centre-right stand up for EU values?

Time for Christian Democrats in the EP to show where they stand on Hungary and on the EU's founding principles, say Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in a joint text.

Europe needs more modern leadership

If Europe wants to be a global leader, our political leadership has to change dramatically. Power needs a new face in Europe, and it needs to get legitimacy from the people, argues liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  2. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  3. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  4. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  5. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  6. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  7. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  8. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  4. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  5. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  7. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  9. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us