At every stop in Donald Trump’s whirlwind of summit meetings in Europe, the issue of climate change – and the US president’s threat to ditch the 196-nation Paris Agreement – is never far from the surface.
Terrorism and trade may top the agendas, especially in the wake of Monday’s Manchester massacre that left at least 22 dead. But European leaders have promised to pressure Trump, an avowed sceptic, on the need to maintain a united front in the fight against global warming .
“I am still trying to convince the doubters,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday at informal 30-nation climate talks in Berlin, where China’s climate tzar, Xie Zhenhua, also urged the United States to stay the course.
Newly minted French President Emmanuel Macron, on the eve of his May 7 victory, likewise vowed to do everything possible to keep the former reality TV star on board.
Macron intended to press the climate case at a one-on-one working luncheon in Brussels yesterday, an Elysee adviser said.
Even Pope Francis made a point on Wednesday of giving Trump a copy of Laudato Si, his impassioned plea for preventing the planet from overheating.
Trump has said he will pass judgment on the landmark 2015 climate treaty – which he trashed as a candidate – upon returning to Washington.
There are hints he may show his hand during today’s G7 summit in Sicily, the last stop on his 10-day foreign foray. If the US president is swayed, it may be pressure from business interests that makes the difference.
A host of metrics – the stabilisation of CO2 emissions from energy production, investment in renewables outstripping fossil fuels – point to a decisive shift in the global economy towards clean energy, and for many businesses the risk of getting left behind now outweighs the cost of joining in that transition.
Even big oil and coal have backed the Paris Agreement, which leaves room for technologies that would allow these industries to grow in a low carbon economy.
Climate change has also emerged as a threat multiplier for illegal migration and terrorism, both key issues on the table as Trump met Nato leaders in Brussels yesterday.
New research, for example, is detailing how conflict and water shortages in the Middle East and north Africa – with 5% of the world’s population but less than 1% of its renewable water supply – could trigger a mass exodus from affected areas.
No matter what Trump decides to do, the potential for disruption remains.
“Even if the US stays in the Paris Agreement, no one really knows what [its] stance will be,” Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said.
Trump has vowed to cut off international climate funding, and has already undercut domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the two main pillars of the Paris pact. – AFP