G20 Summit: Merkel’s Anti-Trump Front Is Crumbling
In the run-up to the G20 summit, the German Government is trying to isolate US President Trump. According to SPIEGEL, Angela Merkel is lobbying for a commitment to the Paris climate agreement from as many statesmen as possible. But it’s not that easy.
First cracks in the climate alliance emerged early – just after Donald Trumps’ historical speech in the Rose Garden where he announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal. Only Germany, Italy and France signed a joint, critical statement in response to the farewell from the international climate alliance. Japan, Canada and the UK did not.
Undaunted, German chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to rescue the alliance against Trump. At the beginning of July, at the G20 summit in Hamburg, the leaders of the most important industrialized and emerging nations, such as China and India, will meet. Angela Merkel wants to take a manifest stand in the fight against global warming. According to SPIEGEL, her officials have drafted a 13 page document intended to be signed by as many heads of state as possible.
According to the draft statement, G20 leaders would have to committed to a “redesign of the global energy system in line with Paris” and to their pledges of “national contributions” for the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Social Democrats put Merkel under pressure
According to SPIEGEL, the draft document contains a number of points in which the Paris agreement is expressly reaffirmed and specified. “Our actions are guided by the Paris agreement,” it says. The goal was “to keep global warming well below two degrees [Celsius]”.
However, the German government fears that not all 19 heads of state and government – not including Trump — will sign this declaration at the summit in Hamburg. According to SPIEGEL, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a telephone call with Angela Merkel, has proposed that any reference to the Paris climate agreement should be removed from the G20 statement to allow US President Trump to sign it.
Merkel’s Social Democratic coalition partner (SPD) has warned the Chancellor not to concede and not to remove the clear commitment to the Paris Agreement. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told SPIEGEL: “It would of course be good if as many participants of the G-20 summit as possible were to reconfirm their adherence to the Paris climate deal. Silent consent in opposition to the climate deal cannot be the message sent by the G-20.”
Merkel is currently consulting by phone with G20 leaders to establish how great their willingness is to isolate Trump on the climate issue. During her Latin America trip this weekend, she will also discuss the subject with the Mexican President.
Isolating Trump: Merkel’s G-20 Climate Alliance Is Crumbling
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had actually thought that Canada’s young, charismatic prime minister, Justin Trudeau, could be counted among her reliable partners. Particularly when it came to climate policy. Just two weeks ago, at the G-7 summit in Sicily, he had thrown his support behind Germany. When Merkel took a confrontational approach to U.S. President Donald Trump, Trudeau was at her side.
But by Tuesday evening, things had changed. At 8 p.m., Merkel called Trudeau to talk about how to proceed following Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. To her surprise, the Canadian prime minister was no longer on the attack. He had switched to appeasement instead.
What would be wrong with simply striking all mentions of the Paris Agreement from the planned G-20 statement on climate, Trudeau asked. He suggested simply limiting the statement to energy issues, something that Trump would likely support as well. Trudeau had apparently changed his approach to Trump and seemed concerned about further provoking his powerful neighbor to the south.
The telephone call made it clear to Merkel that her strategy for the G-20 summit in early July might fail. The chancellor had intended to clearly isolate the United States. at the Hamburg meeting, hoping that 19 G-20 countries would underline their commitment to the Paris Agreement and make Trump a bogeyman of world history. A score of 19:1.
If even Trudeau is having doubts, though, then unity among those 19 is looking increasingly unlikely. Since then, the new formula has been to bring as many countries as possible together against one.
The first cracks began appearing on the Thursday before last. After returning from the G-7 summit in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Merkel had sent a clear signal to her team: “We have to stay together, we have to close ranks.”
From the G-6 to the G-3
But even before Trump announced the American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that evening in the White House Rose Garden, it had become clear in Berlin that they would miss their first target. Led by the Italian G-7 presidency, the plan had been for a joint reaction to Trump’s withdrawal, an affirmation from the remaining six leading industrial nations: We remain loyal to Paris.
Suddenly, though, Britain and Japan no longer wanted to be part of it. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t want to damage relations with Trump, since she would need him in the event of a hard Brexit, the Chancellery surmised last week. And given the tensions with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t put his country’s alliance with the U.S. at risk. In other words: Climate policy is great, but when it comes to national interests, it is secondary.
In the end, the Germans, French and Italians were on their own. The G-6 had become the G-3.
It is a defeat for Merkel, and not just when it comes to climate policy. It is also a setback for her claim to leadership on the global stage. Germany’s geopolitical influence, the incident shows, remains limited. When it comes to power, security and interests, Germany is a not a global player, but a mid-sized power that isn’t even able to keep Europe together.
The German chancellor may have become the hero of liberals and democrats around the globe, but she is unable to fulfill the expectations placed on her as the putative “leader of the free world,” at least not when it comes to power politics. Even Merkel’s psychological deftness in dealing with the posturing potentates of the world isn’t enough to make up for the fact that Germany is not a global power when it comes to foreign and security policy.
America, it seems, will remain the world’s power broker for the time being.
When the most powerful heads of state and government gather in Hamburg in less than a month, that fact could make things difficult for the event’s German hosts, and not just when it comes to climate policy. The international situation hasn’t been this unclear in a very long time and it is impossible to predict how the meeting participants will act and how the summit will unfold. There are “so many fault lines,” says a source in the Chancellery: The battle for free trade and protectionism, the war in Syria, the Qatar crisis and the ongoing fighting in Ukraine all pose a threat to summit bonhomie.
In internal discussions, a list of unpredictable variables has been drawn up. At the very top is Donald Trump.
Indeed, the U.S. president’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to overshadow the entire summit. Merkel had hoped that the two would organize a meeting prior to the Hamburg summit so that their encounter would not become a central issue. But now, all eyes are likely to be on the face-to-face meeting between the leaders of America and Russia, particularly given that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Moscow is gaining steam in Washington.
In Berlin, preparations for the summit are continuing full speed ahead, with the Chancellery focusing primarily on the preparation of two documents. One is the summit’s official closing communiqué, which all 20 heads of state and government are to sign. The document is to reflect Merkel’s stamp on the summit, and it focuses on a broad array of issues from trade to Africa to women’s rights.
Several drafts have circulated among the G-20 members in recent weeks. Of particular note: There isn’t a single mention of the climate in the document. There is a decent possibility that, if the U.S. is to sign it, the closing document will remain completely silent on climate issues.
In parallel, though, Merkel’s advisers are working on an “Action Plan on Climate, Energy and Growth,” a document that had initially been planned for the 19 in Merkel’s original 19:1 calculation. But hope is fading that enough heads of state and government can be found to sign the document. Thirteen pages long, the paper asks signatories to commit themselves to “the restructuring of energy systems consistent with Paris” and to their “nationally determined contributions” to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
For the Americans, the document is an imposition. It includes a number of items in which the Paris Agreement is expressly affirmed and substantiated – the pact that Trump has just withdrawn from. “Our actions are guided by the Paris Agreement,” the document states, the goal of which is that of “holding global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees.” The paper also discusses the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the $50 billion that industrialized nations have pledged to make available to help developing nations reach their targets. An array of items that, as has recently become apparent, Trump has little use for.