In early June this year, US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The global deal on climate that was negotiated in 2015 marked the first time when major developing countries such as India and China committed themselves to climate mitigation policies as well. The agreement also binds all signatories to transparency and reporting their provisions vis-à-vis their commitments. Except for the United States, the only two countries that did not commit to the deal are Syria and Nicaragua.
Despite President Trump’s pre-election rhetoric, his move to finally withdraw his country from the deal came as a surprise and disappointment to the European Union and other global players. Brussels’ immediate response was somewhere between resolution and recriminations. The French, German, and Italian leaders joined their forces and issued a joint statement emphasizing that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, which is also the prevalent view within the United Nations’ climate body overseeing the agreement. Some German voices described the American move a “major setback” but despite of this the EU intensified its cooperation with China and India to keep things moving.
However, there are also stricter voices, such as that of Martin Schultz, the candidate for German chancellor and Angela Merkel’s primary opponent, saying that the US withdrawal from the Paris deal must be met with a refusal by the EU to reignite transatlantic trade negotiations. Mr. Schultz thinks that the US would be left with a competitive distortion and could not be granted more market access in such a case. Some major German left-wing media outlets also called for Berlin to “start playing hardball” in light of the “betrayal of trust” and urged the EU to leverage “diplomatic threat potential” including the ability to “withdraw its ambassador, strengthen the opposition in the US politically and economically, [and] support insubordinate states like California.”
However, the mainstream opinion of analysts and observers is that the EU should not let its disappointment at the US stance to Paris deal overshadow the broader transatlantic relations and create greater distance between the two partners. In contrast, Europe should be more forward-looking and take initiative to engage the new American administration on climate and broader issues where both the US and the EU share common interests. It is important for both partners to avoid the cycle of cynicism, mistrust, and fatalism to instead work on promising policies and pursuits. At the end of the day, the election of Donald Trump might be a great historic opportunity for Europe to shift the balance in the transatlantic relationship and start leading the way on global issues.
‘Beyond Fatalism: Transatlantic Energy and Climate Cooperation After the Paris Announcement’ – Analysis by David Livingston and Erik Brattberg – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
(The Analysis can be downloaded here)