G20, High-Ambition Countries Prepare to Confront Trump on Climate
The former French climate ambassador who helped craft the Paris Agreement is predicting a showdown over climate change when the G20 convenes in Hamburg, Germany this summer.
“It is key,” said Laurence Tubiana, now the incoming CEO of the European Climate Fund, in an interview with Climate Home. “It is something we should prepare for carefully. It should be a test of governments, civil society, companies to stick to the goals” laid out in the Paris deal.
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With Germany taking this year’s G20 chair, Climate Home says the question is how far Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces national elections this year, will want to push on international climate leadership. Merkel, a physicist by training, was her country’s environment minister during UN climate talks in the early 1990s.
“The early indications are positive,” reports correspondent Ed King, citing sources who say Germany and China have talked about reinvigorating the Major Economies Forum, a 17-nation group convened by the United States in 2009 to discuss climate policy.
“I think Germany is thinking who it could invite to a new MEF,” Tubiana said, suggesting a form of “distributed leadership” that goes beyond an era when the U.S. and China, as King puts it, were the “twin heartbeats” of global climate negotiations.
“Now there are new African countries leading—look at Ethiopia, Kenya, and others like Morocco, which I think will continue to push on after hosting COP22,” Tubiana told King. She also pointed to the new High Ambition Coalition that emerged as a negotiating bloc during the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris.
Tubiana cited Saudi Arabia, Canada, and China as countries that may be on track to assert greater international climate leadership against the obstacles anticipated from the Trump administration in Washington. At last year’s UN climate conference in Marrakech, “it was important to demonstrate to the new administration there is a cost [to leaving the Paris Agreement], but the best way is to increase action at home. The big concern is funding—nobody can fill the gap the U.S. would leave.” But so far, “there is no sign the green economy is panicking. What will have to happen is implementation at home to change the atmosphere.”
While many international climate leaders are strategizing for a U.S. withdrawal from international climate fora, others are looking at how to respond if the new administration in Washington, DC decides to stay in the Paris Agreement and obstruct it from within. In a blog post Saturday, Chandra Bhushan, deputy executive director of Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment, calls on U.S. academics and civil society to “continually expose Trump’s regressive domestic and international climate policy. They must act as a watchdog and keep the Trump administration under pressure at all times.”
But the international community has other levers to pull, ultimately making a misbehaving U.S. a pariah in international climate negotiations. “Countries must adopt a policy of ‘isolating and shaming’ the U.S.,” he writes. “If the U.S. refuses to contribute to international climate finance, other countries, including developing countries like India, should come forward and contribute. If the U.S. refuses to adhere to its commitments, then countries should not give it any position on the high table. For instance, they should not ask Trump’s nominee to chair any committee, meeting, or institution.”
The high-level diplomatic snubs would fit well with a strategy of carrying the discussion of climate solutions and faster, deeper carbon cuts into smaller, more specialized UN agencies.
“We all know that the Paris Agreement is not sufficient to keep the world safe,” Bhushan writes. “Far higher emission cuts would be required so that the global temperature does not rise by more than 2°C.” But last year’s Kigali Amendment on hydrofluorocarbons pointed to the potential for multilateral agencies to lead on emissions cuts, clean technology, and climate finance, as long as those fora can be “suitably strengthened to convene these negotiations.”
Bhushan traces the strategy back to a principle of “division” used in warfare. “Large, coordinated forces are difficult to defeat,” he states. “But when you divide the enemy into small units, you can defeat each one with relative ease. If we want to defeat Trump, we will have to fight him at multiple platforms, and deny him one large, coordinated platform” like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).