Germany ‘Dramatically Weakened’ G20 Climate Draft to Mollify U.S.
Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel is gearing up for a strong defence of global climate action during the G20 summit in Hamburg later this week, Climate Home is reporting that Germany’s draft declaration for the meeting has been “dramatically weakened” in an attempt to accommodate a recalcitrant United States administration.
A revised draft, produced in May, defines “clean technologies” to include natural gas and even some forms of coal generation, leaves out ambitious language on climate action, and eliminates elements that were included in a version of the declaration developed in March. It refers to “clean technologies such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, natural gas and nuclear power, for those countries that opt to use it, and advanced and cleaner fossil fuel technologies”.
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“If the drafts are agreed in this form, the admission from the international community that coal projects can be considered clean would be a major diplomatic victory for Trump,” Climate Home notes.
As well, in the transition from the March to the May draft, negotiators removed references to a 2025 deadline for eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, stranded asset risk, carbon pricing, completion of long-term decarbonization strategies by next year, a “profound” climate plan for multilateral development banks, and “the alignment of public expenditure and infrastructure planning with the goals of the Paris agreement”.
“The U.S. massively weakened the language in the energy part of the action plan,” one knowledgeable observer told Climate Home. “It pushed for references to so-called ‘clean’ fossil fuels and made it less explicit that the energy transition has to be built on energy efficiency and renewables.” The U.S. intervention also “provided cover to some other G20 members—such as the Saudis and Russia—to weaken some climate sections of the document, including the pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.”
German government sources say a final draft of the agreement may never be published, and “U.S. officials may find the Germans are now less pliable. Since the document was drafted, the political landscape has shifted,” with the Trump administration announcing its withdrawal from the Paris deal and Merkel leading much of the international pushback.
“The world’s citizens will look for a strong message from the G20,” said European Climate Foundation CEO Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate lead during the Paris negotiations, who was previously vocal in her efforts to keep the U.S. in the agreement. “The G2O countries, and all governments beyond them, should stand firm in their backing of rapid implementation of the Paris agreement. We must accelerate action as we are running late, and prepare the long-term low-carbon strategies that allow us to fulfill the Paris goals.”
UN Climate Secretary Patricia Espinosa said she still had hope the action plan would make climate a key criterion for funding decisions by multilateral development banks. “If they were to ensure that all funding decisions had to go through a ‘filter’ that referred to climate risks and the resilience we need to build into societies, that would be great and very helpful,” she said.
The Climate Home report details continuing discussions between EU representatives and Trump administration officials who favoured a decision to keep the U.S. in the Paris accord, with unclear lines of White House authority emerging as an impediment to progress.
In Ottawa, meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau filled out his response to a June 9 Der Spiegel report, which claimed he had encouraged Merkel to remove all references to the Paris agreement from the G20 declaration. After the story emerged, Trudeau flatly denied it, but the German newspaper stood by its account.
In response to a question from National Observer at a news conference last week, Trudeau said his comments to Merkel had focused on unity.
“I told her what, it turned out, President Trump had also said in public: that he was still interested in looking forward on clean energy, on environmental issues, but not within Paris,” he said. “And I impressed upon her the importance of making sure that we all stood together, including in the [G20] communiqué.”