Will Merkel Use Next Week’s U.S. Visit to Boost the Paris Agreement?
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Washington next week for her first meeting with President Donald Trump since his inauguration, she has made clear she intends to raise the issue of climate change with the new U.S. chief executive.
"Of course I'll say that I believe that climate change is certainly caused by humans – and we'll want to see if the position there develops," Merkel has said of the upcoming talks with Trump.
The tenor of these discussions will be an important signal for the July G20 Summit hosted by Germany, arguably the most important meeting of the year for international climate issues. Trump has accepted Merkel's invitation to attend this meeting of leaders of the largest developed and developing countries, the only such gathering including these parties in 2017 with climate change on the agenda. In a preliminary meeting of the G20 Foreign Ministers last month in Bonn, and attended by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Paris Agreement on climate change was prominently mentioned.
Even though seven in 10 U.S. registered voters support the landmark pact to limit global warming and tackle the effects of a changing climate, the Trump administration has not indicated what it plans to do with regard to the Paris Agreement or more broadly with the United States' international climate commitments.
Since November, nearly 900 companies and investors have confirmed their "deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement." And as a March 6 Washington Post editorial noted, leaving the Paris Agreement would be "a gratuitous thumb in the eye of practically every important nation on the planet, a bizarre and irrational unforced error."
Voices in Favor of Paris Agreement
Merkel's pressing of the climate issue next week would add to the persistent and wide-ranging voices that have spoken out in favor of the Paris Agreement. Here's a selection of global, diplomatic, business and security leaders' comments on this critical matter:
"I think having a seat at the table to address [climate change] on a global basis is important – I think it's 190 countries or thereabouts have signed on to begin to take action. I think we're better served by being at that table than leaving that table." – U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
"The Paris Agreement is a milestone in the history of climate governance. We must ensure this endeavor is not derailed … All parties should work together to implement the Paris agreement." – Chinese President Xi Jinping
"I strongly believe this momentum is unstoppable." – UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the Paris Agreement
"This is going to be extremely important for the United States to participate in and to try to persuade others to do so, or we're going to have great losses in our country as waters come up over our coast or in the interior of our country, rivers overflow residential areas … Other countries will probably still maintain a strong interest in the Paris Agreement, or more importantly in control of CO2 around the world" – Richard Lugar, Former Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
"I think it would be a major mistake, even a historic mistake, to disavow the Paris deal…In international politics, trust, reliability and keeping your commitments — that's a big part of how other countries view our country … I can't think of an issue, except perhaps NATO, where if the U.S. simply walks away, it would have such a major negative impact on how we are seen." – R. Nicholas Burns, retired career diplomat and Under Secretary of State under President George W. Bush
"We really admire the Paris process, where you have all the major nations of the world coming together on a global basis -- for it is a global challenge." – William M. Colton, vice president for corporate strategic planning, Exxon
"It would be good for the U.S. to stay in the climate agreement." – Ryan Lance, CEO, ConocoPhillips
"The Paris Agreement was a vital step forward, but its power is in our collective action. Business and government leaders must urgently work together to drive a thriving, low-carbon economy." – Lara Birkes, chief sustainability officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
"We continue to support and drive the Paris Agreement and Unilever's global goal to be carbon positive by 2030." – Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever North America
"We strongly support continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement to help address climate change, one of our biggest public health threats today." – Kyle Cahill, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
As these voices make clear, staying in the Paris Agreement and playing a leadership role on climate are in U.S. economic, security and diplomatic interests. Next week's discussions will be a prime moment for Merkel to impress that point on Trump.