It’s time for G20 leaders to step up climate change efforts

This week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would like to tell the president of China that, no matter how “anti-American” it seems from afar, he and the rest of the world care about…

It’s time for G20 leaders to step up climate change efforts

This week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would like to tell the president of China that, no matter how “anti-American” it seems from afar, he and the rest of the world care about the U.S. and its national security interests.

And he would like to tell him that he should be particularly worried about this week’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires, which is scheduled to meet next week.

The summit will see the group convene just weeks after the president of the United States, the world’s foremost fossil fuel consumer, announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change.

Mr. Pompeo will tell the president that any talk of cooperation on global commerce and security can’t exist without addressing the elephant in the room – climate change.

Yet, the Trump administration’s positions on trade, energy and climate mean the U.S. is unlikely to make progress in those areas in Buenos Aires.

True, Paris commitments made in 2015 say that countries must reduce their emissions, but not what that means in practice. Nowhere in the Paris agreement do we mention the ultimate purpose of reducing global warming: eliminating the need for fossil fuels, which would, in turn, reverse current global trends.

The U.S. keeps supporting the issue in multiple ways. Indeed, the Trump administration has pushed so hard at the G7 and G20 for global agreements to address climate change that the Trump administration, under past administrations, helped shape the Kyoto Protocol, the preamble to the Paris agreement and its predecessor, the Copenhagen accord.

But unfortunately, the Trump administration’s policies mean the G20 leaders will likely be coming out with something much less than a pact on climate change.

Mr. Pompeo will tell the president that any talk of cooperation on global commerce and security can’t exist without addressing the elephant in the room – climate change. The G20 nations will probably reaffirm their commitment to the voluntary commitments made in Paris. That could well be enough for the president to claim a victory.

In Buenos Aires, the world’s most industrialized and economically powerful nations have a chance to show that they are thinking of the U.S.

Here’s the problem: the U.S. is already paying a price for the failure to act on climate change.

Current and former administration officials are widely loathed in developing countries, in large part because they ignored climate change while promoting trade policies and ending aid that cut millions of people off from electricity. But the U.S. is stuck with the problem.

In Argentina, President Trump will join other world leaders and try to rally the group to pay even more attention to the climate issue – something they failed to do after the Paris agreement went into effect. (For the record, the agreement was rejected in both France and Canada, but ultimately ratified by only the U.S., the EU and China.)

After Mr. Trump’s announcement of his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement in June 2017, G20 nations were scrambling to develop strategies to tackle global warming without the U.S.

But, after the U.S. national security adviser John Bolton signaled that Mr. Trump intends to take a hard line on trade, push back against NATO and the International Monetary Fund, and seek to diversify the U.S. dollar’s role in global financial operations, leaders have become more isolated.

Indeed, Trump’s efforts to advance security issues will almost certainly fall on deaf ears in Buenos Aires, particularly on security in the Middle East. And so, with little enthusiasm on climate change, the U.S. and its allies may see less progress made at G20. That could prove costly.

In an effort to make things up to the U.S., the EU intends to renew its commitment to Paris through post-2020 commitments as the U.S. withdraws. Now, if the EU is serious about “making good on its commitments” to reduce emissions and achieve the original 2030 goals, it needs to make these pledges an actual reality. Otherwise, the EU, which produces more than 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, may be worse off now than it was in 2016.

Paris created tremendous uncertainty, risks and crises for the EU, including the escalating debt crisis in the European Union, an unpredictable Brexit and regional conflicts, including with Russia and China. The uncertainty created by the U.S. decision to walk away from the Paris agreement may have a similar impact on the European economy and Brexit negotiations

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