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The Energy 202: Trump stands alone at G-20 on Paris climate accords

July 10, 2017 12:26 PM
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The Energy 202: Trump stands alone at G-20 on Paris climate accords

President Trump arriving for the morning working session on the second day of the G-20 economic summit. (EPA/SEAN GALLUP / POOL)

When the leaders of 20 of the world's largest economies gathered in Germany over the weekend, they were presented with their first opportunity to join President Trump in rejecting the Paris climate accord — or at the very least, signal that they too were wavering in their commitment to it.

But at the end of what observers deemed the "G-19 1" summit, the balance of that equation stayed the same. Nineteen of the 20 attendee nations at the annual Group of 20 meeting reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord. The United States stood alone in abandoning it.

Days before the meeting, it was unclear that this would be the case. "Saudi Arabia has indicated it is unlikely to climb on board," the New York Times reported last week, "and Russia, Turkey and Indonesia are sending mixed signals about how forcefully they will declare their support for the Paris deal."

But for now, each of those nations, which like the United States have fossil fuel resources they would be loath to leave untapped, signed on to the final G-20 communique promising that each would aim to meet their nationally determined emissions targets.

"The Leaders of the other G-20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible," the document read. It continued: "We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement."

Meanwhile, the United States contribution to the climate section of the declaration noted that the U.S. would help others "access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently," seemingly referring to U.S. efforts to ship liquefied natural gas to South Korea, India and Eastern Europe. The United States also did not sign onto the "Climate and Energy Action Plan" that came out of the meeting.

In that, the White House achieved a minor victory: The language in the final statement promoting U.S. fossil fuels was sharply opposed by European leaders, The Post's Michael Birnbaum and Damian Paletta reported on Saturday. Nevertheless, it made its way into the communique.

But overall, the G-20 summit was a win for the leader of the host nation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — at least on the climate issue — despite the White House's efforts to portray it as otherwise.

French President Emmanuel Macron was even more pointed in his remarks.

“I will not concede anything in the direction of those who are pushing against multilateralism," Macron said at the summit. Punctuating global unity on climate change — minus the United States — Macron announced there would be another climate summit in Paris in December to mark the two-year anniversary of the accord.

Meanwhile, in other sign of Trump's shrinking stature abroad, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, used Trump as a political cudgel against British Prime Minister Theresa May, saying he would have confronted Trump himself had he been present for the global summit.

“I would be very strongly challenging Donald Trump on his wish to walk away from the Paris climate change accords,” he said, according to Sky News. "I hope he will understand that unless all the nations of the world get together to reduce emissions and try to preserve and protect our planet then the next generation are going to have more climate disasters."

Of course, the final written declaration is just that — words. The real test of the Paris agreement, and of the resolve of the world minus the United States to stick to it, will come if and when nations actually ratchet down emissions.

Some exciting news over at The Daily 202 from my colleague James Hohmann, whose newsletter makes its debut on Amazon Echo devices and Google Home as a flash briefing called "The Daily 202’s Big Idea." Every morning, you can listen to James analyze one of the day's most important political stories, along with three headlines you need to know. To learn how to add The Daily 202’s Big Idea to your flash briefings on your Echo device or Google Home, visit this page. You can also get the briefing on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

-- The Environmental Protection Agency has asked a federal appeals court to delay implementation of its ruling that would require enforcement of an Obama-era methane regulation.

According to the Washington Examiner, the EPA asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for a delay as it takes time to “consider whether to seek further review of the court’s… decision.”

In its Monday 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that the EPA was able to reconsider the rule but was not allowed to delay enforcement in the meantime.

For more on this, read this dispatch from my colleagues Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson.

A statue honoring miners stands in front of the Boone County Courthouse in Madison, W.Va. The memorial flame stays lit for the duration of the town’s week-long Coal Festival. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

-- Coal's legacy: As much of the rest of the nation has moved away from coal toward natural gas as an energy source, West Virginia's Boone County is keeping the traditions of coal mining alive. The Post'sr Karen Heller reports on the county's coal festival, complete with "a carnival, a talent competition [and] seven beauty queens (from Little Miss Coal Festival to Forever West Virginia Coal Queen)" -- in addition to a memorial service for West Virginians who died while mining last year.

-- Blotting out the sun: The New York Times' Hiroko Tabuchi offers a nice overview of a lobbying push by electric utilities at the state level to reduce incentives for homeowners to buy rooftop solar panels. The main target of the statehouse campaign is a practice called net metering by which owners of solar panels can sell excess power back to the grid. Since 2013, Hawaii, Arizona, Maine and Indiana have phased out net metering.

-- U.S. officials told The Washington Post that the Russian government hacked nuclear power and other energy companies.

There is no evidence that the hackers disrupted the core systems at the plants, The Post's Ellen Nakashima reported, so the public was not at any risk. The hackers broke into systems housing business and administrative details.

From Nakashima: “At the end of June, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent a joint alert to the energy sector stating that 'advanced, persistent threat actors' — a euphemism for sophisticated foreign hackers — were stealing network log-in and password information to gain a foothold in company networks. The agencies did not name Russia.”

Officials said it was the first time the Russian government hackers have gotten into American nuclear-power company networks.

-- Man, it's a hot one: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the United States has had the second warmest first six months of the year on record in 2017. From January to June, the average temperature was 50.9 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.4 degrees higher than the 20th-century average. This year’s average so far is 1.2 degrees cooler than in 2012.

"But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough:" The latest issue of New York magazine has an apocalyptic view of the consequences of climate change, spelling out in over 7,000 words a vision of an uninhabitable Earth should greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. The subsections of David Wallace-Wells's story read like an updated version of the horsemen of the Apocalypse: "Heat Death," "The End of Food," "Climate Plagues," "Perpetual War"...

"What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response," Wallace-Wells writes near the beginning of his piece. "Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action."

-- A new study reveals that humans have been getting poisoned by lead in the air for at least two millennia, BuzzFeed News reported.

“In reality, there is no safe blood lead level,” said lead study author Alexander More of Harvard’s Initiative for the Science of the Human Past to BuzzFeed News. “This study shows we almost never lived in some idyllic pre-industrial nature where there wasn’t lead pollution.”

The study, published in the journal GeoHealth, looked at ice cores from glaciers in the Swiss Alps, which also showed that atmospheric lead saw a boost in the 20th century, and peaked in 1975, after which new laws required lead to be removed from gasoline.

Only in the 14th century — during the Black Death, one of the worst pandemics in human history — did lead levels drop to an undetectable level, according to the report. Lead mining had come to a halt as the plague killed 30 to 50 percent of the population in Europe and crippled the continent's economy.

Also read: Trump threatens sanctions if Venezuela creates Constituent Assembly

Source: washingtonpost.com

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