Don't let Trump, Brexit derail climate action – European officials

by Zoe Tabary | zoetabary | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 19 March 2018 17:46 GMT

U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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U.S. disengagement on climate issues has strengthened the global resolve to fight climate change, says one European official.

By Zoe Tabary

LONDON, March 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Countries should step up their efforts to tackle climate change in spite of U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull his country out of the Paris climate change deal and Britain's plan to leave the European Union, energy officials said Monday.

Trump has bashed international efforts to combat climate change and questioned the scientific consensus that global warming is dangerous and driven by human consumption of fossil fuels.

Britain's 2016 decision to leave the EU bloc also has raised fears that it could fail to deliver on its emissions targets.

But "U.S. disengagement on climate issues has strengthened the global resolve to fight climate change, and emboldened U.S. non-federal actors such as mayors and citizens," said Manuel Szapiro, an EU official who focuses on energy issues.

The EU, in turn, is now working with partners such as China and Canada to help defend the Paris Agreement goal of keeping increases in the planet's average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius, Szapiro told a London energy conference on Monday.

Countries like France and Germany also are beefing up their climate diplomacy, he said.

Julia King, a member of Britain's upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, said that "Brexit does not mean that Britain's climate goals have changed as they are already largely enshrined in UK legislation".

But the shift does give Britain the opportunity to strengthen some of its laws, she added, such as setting tighter emissions standards to tackle air pollution.

John Gummer, the chairman of Britain's Committee on Climate Change, warned that a shift to renewable energy alone was not enough to fight climate change, saying efforts to capture and store carbon were also needed.

He called for "social imagination" to change how people produce and use energy.

"How do you wean consumers off gas when it's what they've always known and it works?" he asked at the conference at Chatham House, a British think tank. "We need to be more creative."

Peter Fischer, deputy director for energy and climate policy at the German foreign ministry, said climate action was crucial to deal with the threat extreme weather poses to stability and peace.

"If climate change goes unchecked, the world will face security risks and conflict that it is not ready for," he said.

He also called on the EU to rethink its migration policy, which is "currently based on the premise that people should stay where they are".

"But climate change means millions may have to move, for example if their land is submerged under water," he added.

(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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