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Merkel: 'We have to protect Mother Earth'

Sertan Sanderson AP, Reuters
June 2, 2017

World leaders reacted with shock and indignation to US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile pledged her commitment to combating climate change.

Angela Merkel PK Klimaabkommen
Image: Reuters/F.Bensch

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a news conference that following the announcement from President Donald Trump, all remaining parties of the Paris climate agreement had to "look to the future."

"We will focus our energies in Germany, the European Union and across the world with more resolve than ever before (…) to overcome these challenges of climate change. We need the Paris Agreement to conserve creation as we know it," Merkel said.

The chancellor went on to say that the German government and Germany as a whole would continue to meet its obligations under the deal, and live up to its commitments towards assisting developing countries with the challenges they faced with regard to global warming.

"The Paris agreement is a cornerstone of cooperation among the nations of this world. This agreement is indispensable. (…) What we started more than 20 years ago made a quantum leap in Paris and will be a success. The road will be rocky, but there is no turning back. To all those who care deeply about the future of our planet, I say: let us continue together on this path," the chancellor added.

'Protect the planet'

Merkel also highlighted the fact that several major US businesses had expressed their disagreement with Trump's decision, pledging to continue their commitments to the environment. The chancellor said she felt "enthused about how many companies, especially in the US, want to walk along this path with us."

"The US decision can't and won't stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet."

Chancellor Merkel had already made an announcement overnight alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni saying that there would be no renegotiation of the Paris accords with Trump.

US action 'contradicts their global leadership'

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks told DW that Trump's decision to withdraw from the accord will not technically go into effect until the next US presidential election cycle, but it has undermined trust in Washington's role at the international level.

"The US can officially pullout of the accord in November 2020, and that is exactly when presidential elections will be taking place in the US. Of course, we can't stop the US from simply not holding up their end of the deal," she said.

"In international law, no sanctions are envisioned for such a case. We don't have an international climate control police force. But the US have now produced a huge sense of mistrust in the world, which contradicts their global leadership role," Hendricks added.

Donald Trump
Trump claims the accord would only result in tiny changesImage: Reuters/K. Lamarque

Merkel's political opponent agrees

Merkel's main opponent in the upcoming September general elections, Martin Schulz from the Social Democrats (SPD), shared similar sentiments as the chancellor, and tweeted that "You can withdraw from a climate agreement but not from climate change, Mr. Trump."

Although Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) are in a so-called Grand Coalition with the SPD, the two party leaders campaign as opponents, each hoping to receive a relative majority mandate in order to be entrusted with forming the next government. Both parties prefer to enter coalitions with smaller parties as junior partners.

German politicians in broad agreement

Peter Altmaier, Chief of Staff of the German chancellery, said that Trump's decision was a disappointment, saying it was sad that "one of the most important allies in climate protection is pulling out with a single stroke of the pen." He added, however, that he was "convinced" the agreement would survive this blow.

Germany's Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller meanwhile commented that Trump's decision went "in the wrong direction."

US embassy in Berlin
Environmentalists in Germany projected this picture onto the US embassy in Berlin, twisting Trump's signature phrasesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Sohn

Leaders of business and industry react 

The head of The Federation of German Industries (BDI) Dieter Kempf meanwhile said that in order for climate protection to succeed there needed to be global cooperation.

"This lack of dependability and predictability is poison to finding globally successful solutions," Kempf said.

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump
Trump's decision to pull out sent shockwaves throughout the worldImage: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/C. Minelli

"The US president's decision to pull out of the Paris accord marks a major setback for international politics. Donald Trump's isolationist course in climate policies antagonizes many of the investment strategies of numerous US and global companies, which support the Paris agreement."

Others, however, highlighted the merit that Trump saw in going ahead with the withdrawal: Jochen Stanzl, an analyst from CMC markets, said that Trump's decision "may be politically and ecologically quite tragic, but the US' exit from the climate agreement will reduce immediate costs for the US economy."

Short-term gains, long-term losses

Not all analysts agreed with that view, however. Stefan Grothaus from DZ-Bank said that in the long run, Trump's strategy will "not help the US economy or the US dollar" while Achim Wambach, head of the Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) stressed that the direction of climate policies in the US was not solely dependent on Trump:
"Businesses which focus on environmentally friendly products won't let this withdrawal stop them, nor will the broad sections of society, which are in support of environmental initiatives," Wambach said.

US allies react strongly to Trump's Paris withdrawal

Germany's DIHK Chambers of Commerce President Eric Schweitzer warned that "climate protection can only be pushed forward in an effective and competetitive way by all states."

Schweitzer added that other countries should stick to their commitments, but warned that attempting to compensate for the US' withdrawal by other countries redoubling their commitments would be a self-defeating exercise.

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