Guest post by David Middleton
What’s the best way to deal with a bully? Punch him (or her) in the nose. It appears that President Trump just punched the G-7 climate bully in the nose…
Merkel’s G-20 Climate Alliance Is Crumbling
The German chancellor had been hoping to isolate Donald Trump on climate issues at the upcoming G-20 summit in Hamburg. But Merkel’s hoped-for alliance is crumbling, underscoring Germany’s relative political weakness globally. Many countries are wary of angering the United States.
By Christiane Hoffmann, Peter Müller and Gerald Traufetter
June 09, 2017 06:49 PM
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had actually thought that Canada’s young, charismatic prime minister, Justin Trudeau, could be counted among her reliable partners. Particularly when it came to climate policy. Just two weeks ago, at the G-7 summit in Sicily, he had thrown his support behind Germany. When Merkel took a confrontational approach to U.S. President Donald Trump, Trudeau was at her side.
But by Tuesday evening, things had changed. At 8 p.m., Merkel called Trudeau to talk about how to proceed following Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. To her surprise, the Canadian prime minister was no longer on the attack. He had switched to appeasement instead.
What would be wrong with simply striking all mentions of the Paris Agreement from the planned G-20 statement on climate, Trudeau asked. He suggested simply limiting the statement to energy issues, something that Trump would likely support as well. Trudeau had apparently changed his approach to Trump and seemed concerned about further provoking his powerful neighbor to the south.
The telephone call made it clear to Merkel that her strategy for the G-20 summit in early July might fail. The chancellor had intended to clearly isolate the United States. at the Hamburg meeting, hoping that 19 G-20 countries would underline their commitment to the Paris Agreement and make Trump a bogeyman of world history. A score of 19:1.
From the G-6 to the G-3
But even before Trump announced the American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that evening in the White House Rose Garden, it had become clear in Berlin that they would miss their first target. Led by the Italian G-7 presidency, the plan had been for a joint reaction to Trump’s withdrawal, an affirmation from the remaining six leading industrial nations: We remain loyal to Paris.
Suddenly, though, Britain and Japan no longer wanted to be part of it. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t want to damage relations with Trump, since she would need him in the event of a hard Brexit, the Chancellery surmised last week. And given the tensions with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t put his country’s alliance with the U.S. at risk. In other words: Climate policy is great, but when it comes to national interests, it is secondary.
It is a defeat for Merkel, and not just when it comes to climate policy. It is also a setback for her claim to leadership on the global stage. Germany’s geopolitical influence, the incident shows, remains limited. When it comes to power, security and interests, Germany is a not a global player, but a mid-sized power that isn’t even able to keep Europe together.
In parallel, though, Merkel’s advisers are working on an “Action Plan on Climate, Energy and Growth,” a document that had initially been planned for the 19 in Merkel’s original 19:1 calculation. But hope is fading that enough heads of state and government can be found to sign the document.
There are widespread concerns that a whole list of countries might pull back out of fear of the consequences for their relations with Trump – something they aren’t willing to risk over the question as to how hot it might be on the planet in 100 years. Indeed, the Chancellery has begun recalibrating its view of success, now content to settle for a situation in which no other country joins the U.S. in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
Ultimately, the end result could be that the issue is largely ignored. The G-20 isn’t a climate conference, officials are saying, and the conflicts might be better suited for the next global climate summit, scheduled to take place in Bonn at the end of the year.
The German population, of course, would almost certainly prefer to see the chancellor stand up to Trump. If Merkel, who has staked a significant portion of her political legacy on climate change, were to exclude climate from the G-20 summit, she could face accusations of caving in to the U.S. president.
Had Hillary Clinton won the Election last year, the G-20 would have been unanimous in their endorsement of the Paris climate agreement. Now, they can only count on three of the G-7 nations in their efforts to isolate the United States with a 19:1 G-20 climate proclamation.