The foreign French minister has warned the US administration that if they do back out from the Paris environmental agreement, this will jeopardize a trade pact between not only the US and France — but the US and the entire European Union.

The current US administration has been criticized, both internally and internationally, for its anti-science and anti-environment stance. Image credits: Jose Moreno.

Addressing the French Parliament, foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said:

“One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris Agreement on the ground. No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement. The US knows what to expect.”

His announcement adds concrete consequences to president Emmanuel Macron’s previous statements, which harshly criticized President Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement. Replying to Trump’s isolationist campaign, Macron said that it’s the planet we should make great again.

President Trump has announced his intention to abandon the Paris Agreement, which he considers “unfair” to the US. While he can’t do that legally until 2020, he has already implemented several policies that shift the US away from environmental progress.

The Paris climate accord is an agreement within the United Nations framework where countries pledged to address the global climate change threat and keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Within the agreement, countries set their own goals, called “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). The Paris agreement only mandates that they must be “ambitious,” “represent a progression over time,” and set “with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement”. However, within those rather abstract limits, countries are free to set their own objectives.

To make things even laxer, there is no binding mechanism to enforce said contributions. In other words, if a country sets an NDC and fails to stick to it, nothing will happen to it directly. There will be only a “name and shame” and a “name and encourage” system. However, this isn’t a mere throwing of words. Should a country fail to stick to its NDC, especially willingly,  the “name and shame” strategy would not only affect a country’s image but also other countries’ policies towards it.

This is exactly what we’re seeing here.

France is not alone in stating that an environmental pact is a prerequisite for a trade agreement. The European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström‏, who is in charge of the European Union trade agreement, echoed similar feelings. Asked on Twitter where she stands on the matter, she replied “Yes Paris deal reference needed in all EU trade agreement today.”

Since the European Union is a customs union, this means that all countries have a common trade policy and a common external tariff, which means that this can jeopardize the US trade agreement with the entire EU.

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