HAMBURG: US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal, seen as a retreat in terms of leadership, is a signal to America’s allies, and adversaries, that they have a chance to realign global power patterns; in short, forge a new world order.
Even as Trump was withdrawing from the Paris pact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese PM Li Keqiang were promising adherence to climate change. China, commentators here say, is finding its path to superpowerdom much easier as the US pulls out.
Trump’s move has led to statements from the German chancellor and French president that portend a realigning of the world order.
European leaders had been half expecting Trump to reject the Paris accord since the G-7 summit in Taormina, but, despite that, there was a collective sigh of disappointment. The US’ withdrawal from the pact is yet another sign that there may be space at the global leadership high table.
Merkel said she was putting it mildly when she said, “The decision of the US President to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is extremely regrettable, and I’m expressing myself in very restrained terms.”
She added, “To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path so we’re successful for our Mother Earth.” She pledged “more decisive action than ever” to protect the climate. In Paris, Emmanuel Macron, the new French president, came up with a sharp riposte to Trump with a sign on Twitter that said “Make our planet great again”.
Germany’s most respected news magazine, Der Spiegel, showed Trump yelling at a burning planet: “You’re fired!” Merkel is clearly positioning herself for a bigger global role if she returns as Chancellor in the September elections. Polls give her a healthy lead over Martin Schultz of SPD, and the right-wing AfD does not appear to be a credible challenge this time round.
Merkel is certainly prepping for it. This week, she used a now famous beer tent speech to get the two largest countries, India and China, to line up with her to support Germany’s agenda for the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July as well as the climate accord.
In Berlin earlier this week, PM Narendra Modi said it was “criminal folly” to not save the Earth for future generations.In St Petersburg on Friday , Modi, without being openly critical of Trump, said India was working towards protecting the environment and climate through new manufacturing and renewable energy .”We are working as a responsible power to protect the environment and combat climate change,” Modi said.
Can Europe, under the new dynamic duo of Merkel and Macron, pick up the mantle of global leadership that Trump appears to be walking away from? Or is the global high table open to China and India?
Experts in Berlin say they had not imagined Europe to be a leading power but were now being forced to contemplate it. Jana Puglierin of the Alfred von Oppenheimer Centre for European Policy Studies said to TOI, “Germany has to show more leadership now. So we will try to keep EU-27 together. The year 2017 is a window of opportunity for Germany and EU.”
For India, the trick will be to work to maximise ties with different parts of the world on different issues. Hence the convergence with EU on climate change and clean development. With Russia, Modi pushed clean energy -natural gas and nuclear energy -both in line with India’s INDC commitments.
Later this month, Modi will meet Trump for the first time against a backdrop of Trump being particularly nasty about India, a new experience for Delhi. The US remains an unquestioned hegemon and, despite its phenomenal economic clout, China is more disliked. India, said government sources, is looking to exploit this opportunity.