European leaders are pursuing a new tack in their bid to dissuade the Trump administration from pulling out of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. Withdraw and miss out on economic and commercial opportunities in clean growth, the Europeans are warning Washington policy makers.
In back channel discussions, the Europeans are emphasizing a lower carbon future is now inevitable and a United States that’s not fully on board will lose out in terms of energy innovation and clean energy job creation.
Others are dangling the prospects to American energy innovators and climate researchers of tax advantages and government subsidies, if they leave the United States and relocate to Europe.
Last week, the European Union’s environment commissioner held meetings in Canada to discuss ways to ensure the agreement is implemented, even in the face of a U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 climate change accord that binds nearly every country to curb global warming.
“Canada and the European Union are committed to implement Paris, defend Paris," EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
In January, a former top aide to President Donald Trump, Myron Ebell, who led transition efforts on the Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters in London Trump will keep his campaign promises and will “definitely” pull America out of the 194-nation Paris climate agreement.
According to The New York Times, however, the White House remains fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to “cancel” the Paris Agreement.
In an article last week, the newspaper said senior adviser Stephen Bannon and new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt are urging Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president’s daughter Ivanka are arguing withdrawal would have damaging diplomatic ramifications.
Pruitt is a former Oklahoma state attorney general who is skeptical of arguments that human activity is contributing to global warming.
European and Canadian officials say they are still hopeful of persuading the Trump administration not to withdraw from the agreement. Playing on President Trump’s determination to boost the U.S. economy and add more high-paying jobs to the American workforce, they are using transactional arguments in their bid, arguing the United States will lose the opportunity to become the world’s clean energy superpower.
In a phone call last week, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told Pruitt serious action against climate change opens up major economic opportunities. “I emphasized that our government is committed to the Paris Agreement. We're committed to taking serious climate action, and that we see that as a real economic opportunity,” McKenna said at a joint press conference with the visiting European energy commissioner in Ottawa.
"The opportunity is in the trillions of dollars when it comes to clean technology. So we think this is a clear economic opportunity, but we need to work at it and we need to bring everyone along,” McKenna added.
Some European leaders hope to attract American energy innovators to Europe as the Trump administration cuts federal budgets and subsidies for clean energy.
Emmanuel Macron, one of the front-runners to succeed Francois Hollande as French president, says innovators impacted by Trump administration cuts in U.S. federal government budgets should relocate to France.
In a recent tweet, he said, “Please come to France, you are welcome, it’s your nation, we like innovation.” He added, “We want innovative people, we want people working on climate change, energy, renewables and new technologies. France is your nation.”
Macron isn't alone among European leaders eager to attract American energy innovators and climate-science researchers. German officials told VOA they are eager to do the same and will offer preferential tax rates for innovators and start-ups, and funds for researchers.
European research initiatives are advertising themselves with any eye to attracting Americans. According to the Daily Planet, a news portal of a European clean-energy initiative, Climate-KIC, a partnership of universities, businesses and public bodies, “talented American students” are welcome to apply for the initiative’s summer school that takes students on a tour of some of the continent’s most renowned research institutions, startup incubators and businesses.
Under the Paris Agreement, every nation that has signed on to the accord provides details on how it will contribute to reducing planet-warming pollution. The Obama administration pledged to implement by 2025 a 26 percent cut in U.S. carbon pollution from 2005 levels.
The United States would likely be unable to reach that target under regulatory rollback plans by the Trump administration, including on coal-fired energy plants.