22 May 2017 | Julian Wettengel

Germany, China urge US to remain in climate agreement

Germany and China increased pressure on the US government to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement ahead of the G7 and G20 summits. The continuing uncertainty about the US position puts Germany’s aim to agree on a G20 energy and climate action plan at July’s summit in jeopardy. Industry association BDI and climate NGOs said they hoped a climate conference in Berlin this week would galvanise support for a strong international stance on climate.

Germany was trying “on all levels” to persuade President Donald Trump and his administration to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement, said environment minister Barbara Hendricks at a press conference at the opening of the 8th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, held 22 – 23 May in Berlin.

However, there would be “no domino effect” should the US decide to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, because the rest of the world was “clearly committed” to the landmark pact, according to Hendricks. She also pointed to the “fundamental importance” of China’s commitment and said the country had become a strong leader in international climate policy.

US President Trump had promised during his election campaign to “cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement. But since taking office, his administration lacks a clear position on climate.

China's Special Representative on Climate Change, Xie Zhenhua, who joined the German minister for the press conference, said that “no country, no people” could stop the global trend towards climate protection. He pointed out that China’s “ambitions regarding climate remained unchanged”, independent of US policy decisions.

The Federation of German Industries (BDI), NGO Germanwatch and Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) said in a joint press release G20 countries must promote climate protection and the implementation of the Paris Agreement.  The meeting in Berlin on Monday and Tuesday should provide the necessary tailwind for the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, they said. BDI deputy managing director Holger Lösch called on G20 governments to lay the groundwork for the introduction of a CO₂ price at the Hamburg summit.

Continuing uncertainty about the US administration’s climate policy has hardened the resolve of other signatory countries to the Paris Agreement, but also prompted questions of future leadership in case Trump decides to drop out.

China, which is set to reach its own climate targets far ahead of schedule, is seen as a likely contender to take on international climate leadership.  

Environment minister Hendricks said Germany wanted to use its G20 presidency to work for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. “Whether we succeed depends on how the US positions itself,” said Hendricks.

G20 Action Plan on Climate and Energy for Growth

The fate of the ‘G20 Action Plan on Climate and Energy for Growth’ underlines the problems caused by uncertainty over the US stance.

At the beginning of the year, the environment ministry had said that Germany was determined to adopt such a plan at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, and to include key provisions in the final summit communiqué [find an earlier draft of the plan here].

But according to German daily tageszeitung (taz), the latest version is “no breakthrough” on contentious climate topics, but rather a minimal consensus: G20 countries would commit to the Paris Agreement, to energy efficiency, and supporting renewable energies.

In a footnote on the first page of the latest version, seen by Clean Energy Wire, it states: “The United States is currently in the process of reviewing many of its policies related to climate change and continues to reserve its position on this document and its contents.”

The latest version already is a compromise compared to the original paper for discussion introduced by the German government. It omits any mention of “human induced” climate change, and no longer contains the target of transforming energy systems to sustainable low greenhouse gas emission systems by mid-century.

While observers close to the G20 process say the US delegation has been cooperative in creating the plan, the whole document still hinges on the final decision of the US government on climate policy. Because there is no G20 energy minister meeting to settle the issue, German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself could be the last one to ensure a joint statement and document.

The Petersberg Climate Dialogue gives countries the opportunity to informally exchange experiences on international climate policy. This year, about 35 participating governments will discuss the November UN Climate Conference in Bonn, the implementation of the Paris Agreement and national climate strategies, said environment minister Hendricks. The second day of the conference will see German Chancellor Angela Merkel take to the podium for a keynote speech.

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