Events this week to mark second anniversary of landmark accord
Concern about coal jobs slows momentum in push for cleaner air
French President Emmanuel Macron this week will seek to breathe new life into the fight against global warming and sway debate away from skeptics of the process led by U.S. President Donald Trump.
At a series of events in Paris starting Monday, Macron along with leaders from the U.K., Norway, Mexico and Netherlands will draw attention to a dozen major projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. They’ll also give a push for increasing climate-related aid to developing nations, in step with a United Nations goal of channeling at least $100 billion a year by 2020. Trump is not scheduled to attend.
The meetings are designed to preserve the the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change sealed two years ago. That deal brought together some 200 nations including the U.S. and China in calling for limits on fossil fuel emissions everywhere for the first time. Trump’s move to pull back from the accord, along with efforts to preserve coal jobs in Germany and Poland, have undercut momentum toward cleaner forms of energy.
“The Trump decision was a blow, but it hasn’t killed the process,” said Herve Le Treut, a senior climate scientist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research in Paris. “If the Paris climate accord accomplished one thing, it was a change of consciousness around the world. We’ve seen many more initiatives since then.”
For Macron, who has sought to put France at the center of issues ranging from Middle East peace to European economic rival since his surprise electoral victory last May, the meetings are part of his effort to building the standing of France in shaping world affairs. The 39-year old French president is stepping into a leadership vacuum left as Trump focuses on an “America first” foreign policy German Chancellor Angela Merkel is mired in talks to form a new government.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Monday called for the carbon price to triple to 30 euros a ton to provide industry a signal that it must invest in cleaning up emissions. He was speaking an in interview at the start of a day on how to boost climate-related funding and reach UN’s $100 billion goal for 2020.
“We have to explain to people that some activities are not the right ones,” Le Maire said on Bloomberg Television. “Coal fired plants have to close down.”
Since the UN goal was agreed in 2009, money has started to flow from richer nations to less developed ones, with the annual total reaching $62 billion in 2014, according to the latest data available from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Finance will be a key topic of the event,” said Simone Tagliapietra, analyst at the Bruegel research group in Brussels. “We know that we will need more renewables and energy efficiency, but at the end of the day it will happen only if somebody puts their money in it.”
Companies from the software developer Microsoft Corp. to insurer AXA SA also plan to announce initiatives at the event, underscoring Macron’s assertion that efforts to fix the climate are picking up steam.
The Paris deal called on all nations to make voluntary emissions cuts. The ambition was to keep the temperature increases well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A degree of warming over the past century already has been blamed for stronger storms, more frequent floods and droughts and rising seas. The World Meteorological Agency has warned that without swifter action, the planet is on course for a much sharper warming by the end of the century.
“There is an urgency to do more,” said Wendel Trio, director of CAN Europe, which represents 140 environmental groups in 30 nations. “We are not on track to implement the Paris Agreement.”
Even so, doubts are rising about commitments to the Paris agenda, and Trump isn’t alone in his reluctance to follow the deal.
- In Germany, business leaders are concerned about rising electricity prices and the cost of renewables. Politicians there have become sensitive about the impact the upheaval in the energy industry is having on the jobs of people employed at coal mines and generation plants.
- In Poland, which hosts next year’s UN climate talks in the heart of lignite-mining country, the government is working to preserve mining jobs as a matter of national security.
- In India, government officials have extended tax advantages to some of the most polluting fuels and questioned whether smog in New Delhi has anything to do with noxious fumes from autos and industry.
On Tuesday Macron will host leaders including British Prime Minister Theresa May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Mexican President Enrique Nieto, as well as mayors of Quito, Seoul and Buenos Aires and California Governor Jerry Brown. Also attending is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a UN envoy on climate and founder of Bloomberg LP, which owns this news organization. They’ll gather at the Ile Seguin, south west of Paris on the site of a former Renault SA car factory.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is due to speak about efforts to get companies to make better disclosures of climate-related risks. AXA, which two years ago vowed to divest some coal-related holdings, is due to announce further measures it’s taking.
“Two years from the Paris Agreement, we’re not closer to meeting its objectives,” Breugel’s Tagliapietra said. Macron’s effort, he said, “will help keep the momentum alive.”
— With assistance by Gregory Viscusi, Rudy Ruitenberg, Francois De Beaupuy, and Francine Lacqua