The European Parliament held a plenary session on June 14 to discuss the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement and the implications this decision will have on the rest of the European Union.
The session opened with Hilda Heine, the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Heine spoke of the dangers the Marshall Island face due to climate change and the natural disasters brought on by it. Heine also pressed for more climate action on the part of the European Union.
Following President Heine, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker assured Europeans that “The abandonment Paris by the US administration will not mean the end of the agreement.” Juncker continued with “The European Union will not re-negotiate the Paris Agreement”, drawing a hard line in the sand. With the United States out of the Paris Agreement, Juncker pushed for more movement on climate action, saying “We have spent 20 years negotiating. Now is the time for action. Now is the time for implementation.” Juncker added that with the lack of US participation, the EU “will step up our climate diplomacy and collaboration with other powers”
The rest of the plenary session continued on with many MEP’s taking stances against President Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement.
Manfred Weber called the decision a “huge historical wrong step” and claiming that “Donald Trump is not going to create a single new job with these decisions.” Weber continued by comparing the concept of “America first” with “Europe first” by stating “America first is all about cutting off relations. So maybe we should talk about Europe first instead. But Europe first means partnership, working together, trying to solve problems together.”
Other MEP’s called out the reduction in production costs that Trump is pursuing and stated “that is unfair competition. We need countermeasures. We should be thinking about imposing duties, we should be thinking about what we can do to tackle unfair competition. Because when you’re faced with unfair competition you have to do something to fight back.”
Others called for working with America instead as some states are planning to abide by the Paris Agreement. Kathleen Van Brempt stated “make sure that at an international stage we keep up with China and India, but also with the citizens of the United States, because let us be rest assured, Trump is not the rightful representative of the people in the United States because they do stand with the Paris Agreement and combatting climate change.”
While a few granted a sympathetic view, most MEP’s divvied out harsh criticism of Trump’s departure from the Paris agreement. Julie Girling called it “reckless”, “myopic”, and “irresponsible” while Yannick Jadot referred to the decision as “criminal.”
Other MEP’s addressed the impact and future of the withdrawal. Peter Lieise acknowledged the losses that will occur by stating “protecting the climate gives an opportunity for industry and Trump is going to suffer the effects of that because he’s been missing out on the future.” Ska Keller stated that “We can’t just let Mr. Trump wash his hands of this, we’ve got to offset what the US doesn’t do.”
With most MEP’s in consensus that Europe must continue forward despite the United States’ exit from the Paris Agreement it leaves the question of will the European Union step up and fill in the gap left by Trump’s withdrawal?