G-20 Communique May Further Isolate U.S. on Climate Change
It’s likely that 19 countries will affirm their commitment to the Paris Climate agreement, leaving Trump alone in rejecting it.
One month after President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement, 20 world leaders have gathered in Hamburg to discuss climate, trade, and terrorism. It’s likely 19 of them will sign a communique expressing their continued support for the Paris agreement — leaving Trump, and the United States, alone in a climate change-denying corner.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had championed the Paris agreement ahead of the G-20 summit, seeking to demonstrate that the United States was alone among G-20 participants in its rejection of the accord. (It’s actually not entirely alone globally: Of the world’s nearly 200 countries, Syria and Nicaragua join the United States in rejecting the Paris accords, though Nicaragua stayed out because it doesn’t think the pact is ambitious enough.)
Earlier in the week, such a strong rebuke to Trump did not seem as likely, as countries like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia seemed to waver in their commitment. But a current draft of the communique, obtained by AFP, shows that 19 countries intend to reaffirm their climate commitments. The draft also refers to the Paris agreement as “irreversible.”
In its current form, the draft also contains language that seeks to highlight what role the United States will play in global climate commitments even without its participation in the Paris Accord, including a phrase stating that the United States will help other countries use “fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently.”
While Trump himself may doubt climate change, most Americans support efforts to curb harmful emissions. After the president announced in May that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris agreement, many cities and states redoubled their own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But state-led attempts to promote better climate policies have their limits, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. Among other limitations, the U.S. Constitution prevents states from making treaties with foreign governments, even though states including California have carried out plenty of climate diplomacy, inking informal cooperative pacts with other countries and provinces.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also evinced support for the Paris agreement on Friday in a statement to the BBC.
“I believe the collective message that will be given to President Trump around this table will be the importance of America coming back into that agreement,” said May. “I hope we will be able to work to ensure that can happen.”
Experts say the final communique could determine the long-term direction of global climate efforts.
“This is a litmus test,” Jonathan Pershing, Obama’s special envoy for climate change, told the New York Times. “How does the world behave?”
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Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a journalist covering China from Washington. She was previously an assistant editor and contributing reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @BethanyAllenEbr