Herz: EU Should Back France’s Plan to Tie Trade Deals to Paris Compliance
The European Union should support France’s plan to make Paris Agreement compliance an “essential element” of its future trade agreements, Sierra Club Senior Attorney Steve Herz argues in a post last week for Euractiv.
“The French proposal is a clear response to Donald Trump’s abandonment of the Paris Agreement and his disdain for Europe’s trade interests,” Herz writes. “But more than that, it is an innovative way to help resolve some of the inherent challenges of the Paris Agreement and greatly enhance its prospects for long-term success.”
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While the EU voted last week to at least marginally strengthen its renewable energy and energy efficiency goals, France is still concerned that Trump’s withdrawal from the global climate deal will deter other countries from amping up their climate ambition. “Trump’s reversal of the U.S. commitment could undermine the effectiveness of the Agreement’s carefully calibrated mechanism for increasing action,” he notes. “While the Agreement gives countries full discretion to set their own targets, it also includes a strong expectation that they act ambitiously and will strengthen their contribution over time. But if front-running countries passively accept such defections, it would set the disastrous precedent that others need not honour their commitments or increase their efforts. This can only dampen overall ambition.”
However, by making Paris implementation a condition for any country that wants access to European markets, “the EU would leverage its economic and diplomatic power to strengthen incentives for other countries to help meet the Paris goals. This would fundamentally reframe climate politics in three important ways”: by elevating the 2015 climate accord to the status of international trade agreements, deterring “free-riding” by getting at the “core strategic priorities” that might bring climate laggards to the table, and advancing a “new global norm” for climate action.
“The EU and many other countries already eschew trade agreements with nations that violate global norms: human rights abusers, weapons proliferators, and other rogue nations,” Herz states. “No country, however, has previously sought to use its trade relationships to uphold a climate protection norm.”
All of those factors make France’s proposal an “innovative approach to use Europe’s trade relationships to elevate the importance of the Paris Agreement,” Herz concludes, helping to counter threats to the global deal and “begin to address the longer-term challenges inherent in its bottom-up pledging structure.”