Europeans stressed Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to formally start a one-year withdrawal process from the Paris Agreement won’t upend global efforts to tackle climate change.
“It is regrettable, yes, but thankfully it’s a solo effort,” German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said Tuesday.
The U.S. announcement Monday was no surprise. Trump — a vociferous climate skeptic — pledged to pull out of the global climate treaty during his 2016 presidential campaign. As a result, the EU has spent years filling the resulting diplomatic hole by pushing Beijing to take a leadership role in global climate politics. That’s why Brussels has co-hosted yearly talks since 2017 along with China and Canada to keep the rest of the world committed to the Paris deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping aim to sign a common text on climate and biodiversity in Beijing on Wednesday, which will “include a paragraph on the irreversibility of the Paris Agreement,” said an Elysée official, who added that France “regrets” the U.S. pullout.
“The cooperation between China and the European Union in this respect is decisive,” Macron said Monday in Shanghai.
The U.S. move isn’t expected to have an impact on negotiations to finalize the rules of the Paris Agreement at the upcoming COP25 climate talks in Madrid, as the U.S. only leaves next year — a day after the U.S. presidential election. “Our door and the door to join the Paris Agreement does remain open and we do hope our U.S. partner will pass it again,” said a European Commission spokesperson.
American negotiators will still take part in future climate talks, because the country continues to be part of the broader U.N. climate process.
“The formalization of the U.S. notice of withdrawal is not expected to significantly affect the business of the COP as it does not come as unexpected news,” said the spokesperson. “The U.S. is expected to continue to engage constructively in the technical negotiations as it has since the announcement of its intent to withdraw over a year ago.”
While international talks won’t be derailed, EU policymakers are already using Trump’s move to call for even steeper EU emissions cuts.
“The fact that the U.S. has abandoned the global climate stage makes it even more important that the EU steps up its game and leads the way at international climate negotiations,” said Bas Eickhout, a Greens MEP, in a statement Tuesday. “The new Climate Commissioner, Frans Timmermans, should start by proposing higher climate targets of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030.”
Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen wants to increase the EU 2030 emissions cuts to 50 percent or even 55 percent from the current 40 percent target. In laying out her strategy for the incoming Commission, von der Leyen also pledged to “lead international negotiations to increase the level of ambition of other major emitters by 2021.”
European countries are historically responsible for driving a lot of the pollution that’s caused warming of about 1 degree Celsius thanks to their early coal-fired industrialization, but today the EU contributes less than 10 percent of global greenhouse emissions.
Reaching the Paris deal’s goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels depends on ramping up efforts by emerging economies such as China, India and Saudi Arabia and other major developing countries. But without the U.S. diplomatic muscle that helped finalize the Paris Agreement under the Obama administration, Trump’s move could complicate EU efforts to push other major emitters to increase their efforts.
Fossil fuel exporting countries have been fighting to ensure that efforts to tackle climate change don’t undermine their traditional industries.
Australia, which has a history of climate skeptics in government, has raised doubts over implementing its Paris Agreement commitments, and last month didn’t contribute any new funding to the Green Climate Fund, meant to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt to climate change. The U.S. already pulled funding after Trump took office.
“Future generations, who will bear the brunt of our climate emergency, will be appalled by Trump’s legacy,” tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP with the Renew Europe grouping.
Rym Momtaz contributed reporting.