European governments reacted with dismay at US President Donald Trump’s decision on Thursday to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
"Today is a sad day for the global community, as a key partner turns its back on the fight against climate change," the European Union's Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said. "The EU deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement."
Cañete added: “The Paris agreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change. Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable. The EU will strengthen its existing partnerships and seek new alliances from the world's largest economies to the most vulnerable island states."
Trump’s decision received immediate widespread condemnation from other governments, experts, non-governmental organisations, and international groups.
Trump said at the White House that the US would begin negotiations to "re-enter the Paris accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States."
But the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy released a statement condemning Trump's decision, and insisted that the terms of the agreement were non-negotiable.
"We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies," they said.
Commenting on President Trump’s decision, French president Emmanuel Macron organised an impromptu press conference.
"It is not a future we want for ourselves, it is not a future we want for our children, it is not a future we want for our world," he said.
Macron added that he told Trump that he respected his decision, but thought it was a mistake. France’s president also repeated a call to all scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs disappointed by the US president's decision to move to France to work together on concrete climate solutions.
Macron added that the Paris agreement was “irreversible”, and would be implemented by all other nations. He also announced that France would work with its partners on new initiatives.
“Make our planet great again," the French president concluded.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said Trump’s decision was disappointing, but added that she would continue working to "save our planet."
Her chief of staff also urged other countries to fight for the Paris commitments.
BuzzFeed News understands that the UK government (as well as Canada and Japan) declined to participate in the joint statement with Italy, Germany and France.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “President Trump called the Prime Minister this evening to discuss his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.
“The Prime Minister expressed her disappointment with the decision and stressed that the UK remained committed to the Paris Agreement, as she set out recently at the G7."
In a read out of the phone conversation Trump had with the European leaders, the White House said thanked them for holding "frank, substantive discussions on this issue during his first months in office."
"He also reassured the leaders that America remains committed to the Transatlantic alliance and to robust efforts to protect the environment," the statement continued.
Meanwhile, the nordic governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden tweeted that they would stand by future generations.
A number of cities, including Paris Anne Hidalgo, also took to social media to express their continued support for the climate accord regardless of Trump. Meanwhile, Belgium’s prime minister described the Trump's decision as a “brutal act.”
The US will join Syria and Nicaragua as the world’s only other nations not in the Paris agreement. But Trump's decision didn't come as a surprise to most governments.
Before Trump’s announcement from the White House Rose Garden, a senior official from a Group of Seven (G7) government told BuzzFeed News their expectation leaving the G7 Summit held in Italy last week was that the president would pull out of the accord.
During the talks in the Sicilian town of Taormina all the economic, environmental and ethical arguments were put to the president, the source said, adding that “Trump listened attentively." The G7 leaders’ statement put on the record that Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and the UK reaffirmed a strong commitment to the Paris accord, whereas the US was reviewing its policies on climate change and the agreement.
Merkel described the climate talks at the G7 as “very unsatisfactory."
“Trump made clear that the US is deeply divided on the issue,” the official told BuzzFeed News.
Reports in Axios, who first broke the story that Trump was withdrawing from the climate deal, claimed the president was “swinging wildly” while making his mind up this week and was under intense pressure from his advisor, and daughter, Ivanka, to stay in the deal infuriating conservative circles. The New York Times reported similar divisions among the president’s closest advisors.
Independently of Trump’s decision, a number of officials BuzzFeed News spoke to are adamant that decarbonised economies are inevitable, and there is no turning back the clock.
The G7 source went on to predict that a number of states and major cities, as well as American businesses (a number of CEOs, including energy firm’s Exxon’s, had written to Trump urging him not to abandon the Paris deal) would reaffirm their commitment to tackling climate change despite the president’s decision.
A number of states, cities, and businesses and states have done just that.
Still, the same G7 official made clear that the challenge of climate change needs the world’s biggest economy on board. However, they didn’t expected Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty to lead to an exodus because major economies were all on board.
Indeed, as America steps back, several countries are likely to see an opportunity to strengthen their influence worldwide.
Both India and China have reaffirmed their commitment to the climate deal this week following meetings with Merkel in Berlin. Meanwhile, according to the Financial Times, the EU and China will announce on Friday an alliance to combat climate change, and a set of measures to accelerate what they call the “irreversible” shift away from fossil fuels and the “historic achievement” of the Paris climate accord.
Meanwhile, Canada's minister of environment and climate change said her government would host a ministerial meeting on climate action with the EU and China. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau also used Twitter to criticise Trump's decision and reiterate Canada's support for the Paris plan.
Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement is likely to be a further blow to an already rough political climate, and adds to the perception among a number of Europe’s leaders of a White House that is increasingly unpredictable and not completely reliable as a partner.
As they waited for Trump’s decision, EU institutions and governments also tweeted their support for the Paris plans.
The diplomatic fallout will also dent America’s reputation abroad.
Tom Fletcher, a former British diplomat and foreign policy advisor to three prime ministers, described Trump’s move “as damaging to US global leadership as Vietnam," in a post on his personal website.
He added: “If the US joins Syria and Nicaragua outside the Paris Accord, we must acknowledge that on climate, America under present management is a rogue nation. It is not working with us to extend the lives of our descendants. But against us to shorten them.”
Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alberto Nardelli at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.