The world’s largest economies will continue implementing the Paris Agreement, despite US President Donald Trump announcing his intention to exit the pact. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who presides this year’s G20 summit, directly referenced Trump, saying that we can’t wait for the science to convince “the last doubter.” It’s interesting to note that Merkel has a PhD in Physical Chemistry and this seems to show in her attitude towards science.
G20: We’ll go forth with Paris
The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. The countries represented account for around 85% of the gross world product (GWP), 80% of world trade (or, if excluding EU intra-trade, 75%), and two-thirds of the world population. It would be an oversimplification to say that the G20 shapes the direction for the planet, but it’s without a doubt the world’s most influential forum. Of course, the US is part of it, as is the European Union.
It would be incorrect to say that it’s the first time a large gap emerges between one nation and the rest of the countries — Russia has often been at the center of many controversies and scandals. But barring Russia, there has never been a major open divide between the countries. Now, the US seems to go one way, while everyone else maintains a different course. It makes for some unpleasant discussions, but these are discussions that need to be carried out.
“We cannot expect easy discussions on climate change at the G20 summit,” she said. “Our differences with the US are clear.” She added that “the Paris agreement is irreversible and it is not negotiable,” directly responding to Donald Trump, who has stated that he would like to renegotiate the Paris Agreement, but if that’s not possible “it’s also fine.”
It’s not like this is a US vs Germany kind of deal — the EU President Donald Tusk said: “We will speak with one voice at the G20 summit”. European countries have spoken in support of the Paris Agreement, with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron being a staunch opponent of Trump in all matters science and climate. It’s not a US vs Europe kind of thing either — China has expressed willingness to assume leadership in combating climate change. South America supports even stronger action than is required by the Paris Agreement. Australia re-expressed its commitment to the agreement. As bizarre as it may seem, even North Korea has expressed similar feelings, calling Trump’s behavior ‘the height of egotism’. No, this is a US vs world kind of thing. It’s a regrettable and unfortunate situation, but in this sense, it’s how things are. Merkel herself emphasized that point:
“The differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up. That I won’t do,” she said. “The European Union unconditionally stands by its agreement in Paris and will implement it speedily and with determination. More than that: since the decision of the United States to leave the Paris climate agreement, we are more determined than ever to make it a success.”
Trump: “I’m proud of it”
The US is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, and historically, it is responsible for a third of the CO2 that mankind has emitted in its existence. In more modern times, the US also has done less than other countries to transition to a green economy. Renewable energy in the United States accounted for 11.1 percent of total energy generation in 2015, compared to 16.4 in the European Union and 23% in China. Despite its declared ambitions, the US is just not doing enough. Yet Trump seems content with this.
“In order to protect American jobs, companies and workers, we’ve withdrawn the United States from the one-sided Paris Climate Accord,” Trump said to applause, during a speech on the future of the US energy sector. “I will tell you we’re proud of it,” he said. “And when I go around, there are so many people that say thank you. You saved the sovereignty of our country.”
By this point, the science is pretty much settled. Climate change is the elephant in the room — you can debate how big the ears are or how low the tail hangs, but the elephant is there. The time for discussions has pretty much passed and now is the time for action. As Merkel eloquently put it, we simply don’t have the time to wait for every single doubter.