Questions about the rift between liberal institutionalism and sovereignty became deeper with US President Donald Trump unilaterally announcing withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate agreement. Trump’s argument is that the deal wasn’t fair, and disadvantages US businesses and workers. Trump also mentioned that this deal throws a spanner in American oil and coal industries, even when the world is cutting down on coal. The opposition to this move has been global so far. The Paris agreement commits US and other countries to keep global temperature rising to pre industrial level. While there are valid questions about the implementation of the deal, it is widely accepted as a necessity for the planet by every country and every major powers of the globe. US now stands essentially against the entire world when it comes to climate change.

Trump stated that his goal was to renegotiate the treaty. It is understood that’s an impossible task, to have 193 different bilateral treaties and then ass them with Senate. Already, Italy, Germany, and France, the big three have jointly stated that this decision was regrettable. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni stated in a joint statement. Japan hasn’t signed the statement, but has echoed similar sentiment, while May of UK said that while it is regrettable it’s a decision by Washington and not London. Canada’s Trudeau has also regretted the decision. “The US decision can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet” the chancellor added. Her counterpart, Macron of France, went on even further, stating there’s no Plan B, as there’s no Planet B. And invited US businesses to France, potentially starting a small scale trade war initiation.

According to Daily Mail reports, a planned U.S. pullout from the Paris climate deal would be a further 0.3-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100. However, Deon Terblanche maintained that due to other factors, that might not happen. However, hidden in all the outrage, a simple thing is lost. This is not about climate. Trump’s withdrawal was purely geopolitics. 

Washington Post reports, that Trump was pressured from all sides, including from her daughter Ivanka, to stick to the Paris deal. But Trump stuck to his guns. A certain portion of that came from his perceived humiliation at the hands of the Europeans. He has this idea, that Europe is taking advantage of America. Which might be true in the narrow geostrategic sense, but the problem here is, one cannot flow against the entire world, unless one is prepared to go to war. Naturally this is an actual American abdication of leadership. Infact, from the reports, it is indicated, that pressure from European leaders, infact installed this resolve in Trump that he was determined to go against Europeans. The G7 pressure on Trump actually backfired.

Interestingly, the question that’s in the mouth of Europeans are this, who next to lead the initiative. Regardless of the bravado, even the Europeans know, they don’t have the hard power, or trade power to coerce US unless supported by some other major economy, like India and China or UK. Of that, UK is the most reluctant one, as post Brexit, UK trying to be equidistant from everyone. That leaves China and the EU to forge an alliance to lead the climate change debate. EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, was quoted by Guardian, saying that “The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy.”

This was reflective as Germany and China vowed to solidify partnership and lead on climate change, in what is considered an EU signal to Washington hours after Trump quit Paris treaty. In Berlin, the first stop of Premier Li, German chancellor Merkel said “China has become a more important and strategic partner.” The interesting word to note here is strategic. She also said “We are living in times of global uncertainty and see our responsibility to expand our partnership in all the different areas and to push for a world order based on law” in another hammering of her intentions to uphold an institutionalist rule based order, as opposed to the nationalist winds in Western Atlantic.

The EU-China summit will solidify Chinese leadership on climate. Atleast that’s what the Europeans hope.


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