At G20, climate change makes it G19 vs Trump. Everyone else supports Paris
While Donald Frederickovich was making nice with Vladimir Vladimirovich and having daughter Ivanka keep his seat warm at the adults table during parts of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the assembled leaders struggled to come up with climate language in their final communique that the world’s 20 richest nations could all agree to. Thanks to the stubborn climate science denial of the Trump regime, the communique had to recognize that only 19 of those nations accept the seriousness of the matter and remain firmly committed to the Paris Climate Accord.
This was no surprise. To groans and sighs in the scientific and environmental activist communities, Pr*sident Trumpannounced the first of last month that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 agreement.
That withdrawal cannot take place under Article 28 of the agreement until November 2020. Indeed, the United States must wait until three years after entering the agreement before giving written notice of intent to withdraw. Then, it must wait a year before actually pulling out. If a sensible person replaces Trump at the White House in January 2021, the U.S. can reenter the Paris agreement just two months after withdrawal. But what Trump’s announcement has already accomplished is ceding U.S. leadership on climate matters.
The chief political beneficiary of that abandonment is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany is a leader in converting its energy system into one based on fossil fuels to one relying on renewable sources. Merkel sought to bridge the gap between the Trump regime and all the other governments at the summit, but was ultimately unsuccessful. She said she “deplored” Trump’s withdrawal announcement:
“In the end, the negotiations on climate reflect dissent—all against the United States of America,” Merkel told reporters at the end of the meeting.
“And the fact that negotiations on trade were extraordinarily difficult is due to specific positions that the United States has taken.”
The joint communique, formally called the G20 Leaders’ Declaration, covers a lot of ground, including that contentious arena of trade, as well as international financial architecture, health, employment, “harnessing digitalization,” and, of course, climate:
We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs. The United States of America states it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions.
The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible. We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes and note the OECD’s report “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth”. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth as set out in the Annex.
Climate hawks have been strongly critical of the Paris Accord though they agree that it’s better to have it than not. Key flaws, they say, are the non-binding nature of the pledges nations have made to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the fact those pledges go nowhere nearly far enough to achieve the agreement’s goal of keeping the industrial age’s global temperature rise below 3.6° Fahrenheit (2° Celsius).
But the agreement specifically requires that nations get together every five years to assess how far they’ve come and, if they can be convinced, to vow additional emissions cuts. That makes Paris a big step forward despite its inadequacies.
The other good news is that, in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal announcement, hundreds of U.S. cities have vowed to stick with the Paris Accord no matter what the White House does. Twenty-seven of them have announced they will seek to obtain 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources as quickly as possible, forcing a reduction in the carbon dioxide and methane emissions that are driving climate change.
To keep those promises from being just cheap rhetoric, activists will have to keep up the pressure on leaders in those cities to turn their words into actions, and work to turn those 27 cities into hundreds, then thousands. “Think globally, act locally” has never been more relevant.
Even great success in transforming the energy system won’t be enough by itself to ameliorate the impacts of climate change. The nation’s transportation and agricultural systems must also be transformed along with the energy system. Getting there will ultimately require nationwide policies pretty much the opposite of what the Trump regime has in mind.
Unlike a decade ago, the economics of renewable energy are increasingly on the side of those who know climate change is no hoax and no joke. It shouldn’t be forgotten that—weak as they were—government policies, such as subsidizing renewables, are a good part of the reason those economics have become so favorable. Much more government action—local, regional, national, international—is required, just is individual and business actions are.
There’s no point in trying to persuade the climate science deniers now in charge in Washington to wise up and adopt such policies. Tossing these men and women out of office at the first opportunity is a key ingredient of the antidote.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)