Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement was met with howls of disapprobation on this side of the Atlantic. Angela Merkel was quick to proclaim that:
“I think that the Paris Agreement is so important that there should not be compromises.”
Then Emmanuel Macron paraphrased Trump by calling on world leaders to “make our planet great again.”
The Trump Administration’s climate change denial was laid bare for all to see. This does not, however, demonstrate that Merkel and Macron were doing any more than the usual green virtue signalling that passes for climate action these days. Trump is so obvious a pantomime villain that he makes an easy target. But let us not forget that under supposedly green Obama, US investment in fossil fuels rose dramatically; spurred on by a wanton approach to fracking and building pipelines to harvest the Canadian tar sands. Had Hillary Clinton been elected instead of Trump, the rhetoric would have been different but the practice would have been much the same.
What of European politicians like Macron and Merkel? They are not so different in practice either according to Wendel Trio, Director of the Climate Action Network Europe:
“On 13 October, EU Environment Ministers will meet to decide on the revision of this policy for 2021-2030. The text which lays out the conditions for their position, discussed and to a large extent endorsed on Wednesday (27 September) by countries’ ambassadors in Brussels, reveals national priorities in the negotiations so far.
“Rather than discussing how to correct for the flaws of the original proposal from the Commission, governments are favouring loopholes which would allow them to use accounting tricks and avoid real action.
“So far none of the governments has advocated for raising the level of ambition of emission reductions, despite the fact that the current ESR target of -30% by 2030 is too low to match the Paris Agreement’s long-term objective to keep global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.”
According to Trio, not only are EU states refusing to close existing loopholes:
“Instead, countries have introduced a new loophole that would allow some of them to carry over unused pollution permits from the past. These loopholes, together with an inflated starting point, would lower an already weak -30% target to a mere -23%.”
Trio gives the example of Sweden – which would only have to cut emissions by 29% (instead of 40%) – and Ireland – just 1% (instead of 30%) – to show just how negative this loophole will be:
“EU member states may talk a good game on climate action, but behind closed doors government representatives are doing as much as they can to ensure their country avoids taking real action.”
Trio berates EU leaders for their “two-faced” stance, claiming it will do nothing to restore public confidence in politics, or arrest the drift to populism and Euroscepticism. In this, however, Trio undoubtedly misrepresents the majority of European citizens who are more concerned with their immediate economic problems than with an environmental crisis that most of the Green movement has told them has already been solved using windmills, solar panels and electric cars.