G20 climate change control without the White House
G20 Summit

G20 climate change control without the White House

At Hamburg, G20 leaders will go it alone, without the White House, to save the planet from the immanent, existential threat of uncontrolled human-created climate change. They will do so knowing that powerful American actors are already on their side and that the US Congress could well join them after its mid-term elections in 17 months. They will also do so convinced of the following firm facts. Germany led the G7 to invent the global governance of climate change in 1979. The G20 and its sibling the G7 have coped well with an absent America in the recent past. The ‘G3’ of the European Union, Canada and China have already united to lead the global climate control cause until the White House in its own interest returns to the fold.

Trump’s most recent, unilateral isolationist move reflects an authentic American instinct. It flows from George Washington’s initial rejection of ‘entangling alliances’, through America’s costly decisions to abandon Europe in 1914 for World War One, at the Paris Conference in 1918 in the League of Nations and in 1939 for World War Two. But the United States soon realised it needed its North Atlantic allies and joined the new global governance regimes that they led. In today’s intensely interconnected world, with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations rapidly approaching catastrophic levels, there is less time to lose. But the world now has the G7 and G20 to substitute for and support the UN when the White House withdraws.

Today, the new G3 has the capability and commitment to offset the White House withdrawal, especially as its members are backed by India, Mexico, Korea, Brazil, almost all of the G20 and most of America’s key states, cities, mayors, citizens and perhaps courts. They can come up with the money to replace Trump’s withdrawal from global climate finance. Moreover, the United States will legally remain part of the Paris Agreement forged in 2015 until 2019. Before then, a new Congress will be elected by Americans who strongly support US government action to control climate change. In short, Paris 2015 will not become Paris 1918.

At the recent G7 summit in Taormina in Italy, Trump and his closest, strongest democratic colleagues found the formula to control climate change, making a collective statement in the declaration, but the White House would take more time to decide. With Trump signing on, his six allies and the European Union agreed to forge ahead with the Paris Agreement and with climate finance. Trump joined them to agree to enhance energy efficiency and clean technology.

This formula provides a firm foundation for Hamburg. Here Taormina’s six versus one will become 18 versus one, should Russia and Saudi Arabia rationally choose to join the winning side, rather than go down with an unpopular president before political balances in Washington change.

In short, at Hamburg the rest of the G20 will raise America up before today’s White House lets it and the world sink below the rising seas.