Climate Hawks Urge G20 to Stand Firm on Paris as Leaders Convene in Hamburg
With the G20 summit kicking off in Hamburg, Germany today, the world’s leading economies received a draft decision document dated July 3 in which they “acknowledge the United States’ isolation in opposing the Paris climate accord but agree to G20 collaboration on reducing emissions through innovation,” Reuters reports, citing a source close to the negotiations.
“We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement,” the draft states. “The United States affirms its strong commitment to a global approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs,” even as the other G20 leaders acknowledge the Paris agreement as “irreversible”.
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That latter reference signaled the rest of the G20’s continuing pushback on Donald Trump’s notion that the Paris agreement might be open to renegotiation.
“We don’t want a parallel discussion on climate. For us, it’s all about Paris,” an EU diplomat told Reuters. Although “at the end of the day it’s still the United States, and if they want to renegotiate, we will probably still come to the table.”
That notion won’t sit well with leading environmental organizations that are urging governments not to water down language on the global response to climate change.
“The G20, or G19 if necessary, must make it crystal clear that the Paris agreement is the only game in town,” said Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan. “The statement that the U.S. has a strong commitment to a global approach that lowers emissions smacks in the face what Trump is doing in reality—raising emissions.” So “this is the moment for the G19 to stand together on the right side of history and reject any diversions” from Paris.
In the hours before the G20 convened, France released an updated climate plan that calls for a phaseout of fossil-fueled vehicles by 2040, a carbon tax, renewable energy incentives, and the country’s previously-announced moratorium on new oil and gas exploration. And in the U.S., editorial writers and scientists renewed the call for the G20 to lead the global response to climate change, whatever the Trump administration decides to do.
“As world leaders prepare to meet at the Group of 20 conference this week, a slew of recently released research confirms that climate change is an immediate and critical problem that must be at the top of the list of global priorities,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote Wednesday. “No matter how irresponsible Trump’s behavior on this matter, the world cannot afford to lose four years. The effort must press on.”
“I’m not letting trickle-down ignorance win,” added veteran U.S. climate scientist Ben Santer, lead author of the first IPCC report to declare a “discernible human influence on global climate” in 1995. After a career spent defending that conclusion from the reasoned skepticism of scientific peers, alongside “non-scientific criticism from powerful forces of unreason”, his evocative essay describes the experience of seeing reality “suddenly shift” with the election of a hostile new administration.
“The ignorance starts at the top,” he writes. “It starts with untruths and alternative facts,” extending to an EPA administrator claiming that global warming has levelled off and a federal energy secretary calling human-induced climate change a fairy tale.
“Getting out of this metaphorical darkness is going to be tough,” Santer writes, but “my optimism comes from a gut-level belief in the decency and intelligence of the people of this country. Most Americans have an investment in the future—in our children and grandchildren, and in the planet that is our only home. Most Americans care about these investments in the future; we want to protect them from harm. That is our prime directive.
“Most of us understand that to fulfill this directive, we can’t ignore the reality of a warming planet, rising seas, retreating snow and ice, and changes in the severity and frequency of droughts and floods. We can’t ignore the reality that human actions are part of the climate change problem and that human actions must be part of the solution. Ignoring reality is not a viable survival strategy.”