This last G20 has brought forward the lack of international trust in Trump’s leadership. Indeed, the NGO and experts have now started calling the 18 year old summit “G19” to take into account the United States’ significant isolation.
The main point of contention: climate
No split was more evident than climate change. Even the G20’s official communiqué seems to mark the existence of two camps at the Summit: a “G1” (the U.S.) versus a “G19” (the nineteen other members). “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement,” it states, adding not long afterwards, “The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible”, followed by “We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement […]” to really nail the United States’ coffin.
The Paris Agreement constitutes a notable milestone in diplomatic history: it built upon the Convention to – for the first time – bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. The Paris climate accord on reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes into force in 2020, and mandates signatories to plan to reduce their emissions and report on their progress. It has been ratified by 153 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change members, and signed by 195. By pulling out, Trump not only smeared the symbolism of such an event but raised questions about value of agreements of this nature: what is the point of spending so much money and time to painstakingly get everyone to agree to something if it is seemingly so easy to get out of once it becomes inconvenient for one member?
Global leaders didn’t hide their anger at Trump’s intractable position. British Prime Minister Theresa May, for example, said she was “dismayed at the U.S. decision to pull out” of the Paris accord and had personally urged Trump to reconsider. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also careful to highlight the points of disagreement with the United States. “Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear,” Merkel said at the end of the summit. “Unfortunately—and I deplore this—the United States of America left the climate agreement.”
Furthermore, the POTUS has seriously destabilised the future of the Paris agreement. Bearing in mind that the U.S. is one of the main economies of the agreement, Recep Tayyip Erdigan, Turkey’s president, expressed his concerns to journalists, stating that he might be less likely to ratify the Paris agreement since he was concerned the funds promised to developing countries would be jeopardised. This could be the beginning of a trend of countries threatening to quit the Paris climate accords in order to get more funds from the wealthier members.
However, some leaders remain more optimistic than others. French President Emmanuel Macron declared: “I never despair to convince, because I think it is a duty, given my position, and it is one of my character traits”, establishing that he has not given up trying to convince Trump not to leave the Paris Agreement. He also used the talks to announce he would host another round of follow-up Paris climate talks in December to mark their two year anniversary, placing him even further from the U.S. on the issue. This could represent a beam of hope for the Paris Agreement’s future.