19 of G-20: Climate pact is ‘ir­re­versible’


HAMBURG, Ger­many — World lead­ers struck a com­pro­mise Satur­day to move for­ward col­lec­tively on climate change with­out the United States, declar­ing the Paris ac­cord “ir­re­versible” while ac­knowl­edg­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the agree­ment.

In a fi­nal com­mu­nique at

the con­clu­sion of the Group of 20 sum­mit in Hamburg, Ger­many, the na­tions took “note” of Trump’s de­ci­sion to aban­don the pact and “im­me­di­ately cease” ef­forts to en­act for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s pledge of curb­ing green­house-gas emis­sions 26 per­cent to 28 per­cent be­low 2005 lev­els by 2025.

But the other 19 mem­bers of the group broke ex­plic­itly with Trump in their em­brace of the in­ter­na­tional deal, sign­ing off on a de­tailed pol­icy blue­print out­lin­ing how their coun­tries could meet their goals in the pact.

The state­ment and the adop­tion of the G-20 Climate and En­ergy Ac­tion Plan for

Growth ended three days of ne­go­ti­a­tions over how to char­ac­ter­ize the world’s re­sponse to Trump’s de­ci­sion to pull out of the Paris climate agree­ment, and it came as this year’s meet­ing of ma­jor world economies laid bare the stark di­vide be­tween the United States and the rest.

“This is a clear in­di­ca­tion that the U.S. has iso­lated it­self on climate change once again, and is fall­ing back while all other ma­jor economies step up and com­pete in the clean en­ergy mar­ket­place cre­ated by the Paris agree­ment es­ti­mated to be worth over $20 tril­lion,” said An­drew Light, a se­nior climate-change ad­viser at the State De­part­ment un­der Obama.

Dif­fer­ences be­tween the United States and other na­tions on climate, trade and mi­gra­tion made for a tricky sum­mit meet­ing, which un­folded as large protests played out, some­times turn­ing vi­o­lent, with sev­eral peo­ple in­jured and demon­stra­tors set­ting fire to cars and loot­ing in the streets of the Ger­man city.

“Noth­ing’s easy,” Trump said of the gath­er­ing Satur­day as he com­pli­mented its host, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel of Ger­many, who has toiled to bridge the gap be­tween the United States and other na­tions, for han­dling the chal­lenge “so pro­fes­sion­ally.”

Trump’s chief eco­nomic ad­viser later played down ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and other na­tions on climate.

Gary Cohn told re­porters aboard Air Force One af­ter the sum­mit con­cluded that while com­mu­niques “are never easy,” he thought this one “came to­gether pretty rea­son­ably. He said hav­ing “a di­ver­sity of opin­ions in a group of 20” was not un­ex­pected.

“To get 20 of your friends to agree to have din­ner tonight is pretty hard,” Cohn said.

Cohn added that while the U.S. ob­vi­ously has cho­sen to get out of the Paris agree­ment, “we do go out of our way to say in there that that doesn’t mean we don’t sup­port the en­vi­ron­ment and we’re still work­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Merkel played a ma­jor role in forg­ing com­pro­mise lan­guage in the com­mu­nique af­ter France raised ob­jec­tions.

Work­ing overnight, diplo­mats first agreed on a com­mon text on trade, with a nod to­ward Trump’s “Amer­ica First” de­mands for re­stric­tions on un­fair trade, but they had great dif­fi­culty on climate, with the Amer­i­cans de­mand­ing a ref­er­ence to the use of fos­sil fu­els.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of France said he would con­tinue to press Trump on climate and would hold a fol­low-up sum­mit meet­ing in Paris in De­cem­ber to move the climate deal for­ward.

On trade, the talks pre­served the G-20’s con­dem­na­tion of pro­tec­tion­ism, a state­ment that has been a hall­mark of the group’s ef­forts to com­bat the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis and the af­ter­ef­fects of the last re­ces­sion.

The group added new el­e­ments, how­ever: an ac­knowl­edg­ment that trade must be “re­cip­ro­cal and mu­tu­ally ad­van­ta­geous” and that coun­tries could use “le­git­i­mate trade de­fense in­stru­ments” if they are be­ing taken ad­van­tage of.

U.S. Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin said there was “in­cred­i­ble con­sen­sus” on the is­sue and that the U.S. pushed to in­clude the phras­ing about “re­cip­ro­cal” trade.

The word­ing echoes con­cerns voiced by Trump, who has said trade must be fair as well as open and must ben­e­fit Amer­i­can com­pa­nies and work­ers. He has fo­cused on trade re­la­tion­ships where other coun­tries run large sur­pluses with the U.S., mean­ing they sell more to U.S. con­sumers than they buy from Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.

That’s in con­trast to the ap­proach fa­vored by Merkel and the EU, who stress mul­ti­lat­eral trade frame­works such as the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The climate sec­tion takes note of the U.S. de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris ac­cord and says the other coun­tries re­gard the deal as “ir­re­versible.” Yet it left open the pos­si­bil­ity that the United States could some­day come back into the pact, spec­i­fy­ing that the coun­try is putting the brakes on its “cur­rent” emis­sions pledge.

It then nods to­ward fos­sil fu­els, say­ing: “The United States of Amer­ica states it will en­deavor to work closely with other coun­tries to help them ac­cess and use fos­sil fu­els more cleanly and ef­fi­ciently.”

G-20 agree­ments are state­ments of in­tent and rely on gov­ern­ments them­selves to fol­low through. Still, they set the tone for global pol­i­cy­mak­ing and en­able peer pres­sure when they’re not fol­lowed.

John Kir­ton, co-di­rec­tor of the G-20 Re­search Group at the Univer­sity of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Af­fairs, called the sum­mit a “very solid suc­cess.” He pointed to broad agree­ment on the agenda, much of it fo­cus­ing on less con­tentious is­sues such as women’s em­pow­er­ment and pro­mot­ing dig­i­tal­iza­tion.

Other deals at the sum­mit in­cluded an agree­ment to press In­ter­net providers to de­tect and re­move ex­trem­ist con­tent as a way to fight ter­ror­ist in­cite­ment and re­cruit­ing.

Over the long term, the G-20 im­ple­ments 72 per­cent of its prom­ises, and has im­ple­mented 80 per­cent of them since last year’s sum­mit in Hangzhou, China, ac­cord­ing to Kir­ton.

Trump, who spent so much time meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on Fri­day that he de­layed meet­ing the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, Theresa May, un­til Satur­day, tried to for­tify her del­i­cate po­lit­i­cal for­tunes. He said they had had “tremen­dous talks” on trade and were work­ing on a “very pow­er­ful” trade deal for Bri­tain, to be im­ple­mented af­ter its planned de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union, that could be com­pleted “very, very quickly.”

Be­sides fi­nal­iz­ing the com­mu­nique, G-20 lead­ers on Satur­day at­tended ses­sions ded­i­cated to tack­ling mi­gra­tion and a “part­ner­ship with Africa,” dig­i­tal­iza­tion, em­pow­er­ing women and em­ploy­ment.


Canada’s Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau (left) talks to U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Satur­day prior to a work­ing ses­sion at the G-20 sum­mit in Hamburg, north­ern Ger­many.

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