Germany fired back at Rick Perry’s criticism of Europe for not living up to its vow to fight climate change, saying the U.S. energy secretary’s suggestion to renegotiate the landmark Paris accord is “absurd.”
The 2015 global agreement to limit global warming-causing gases already lets nations adjust their own emissions targets, making it pointless for the U.S. to reopen talks in hopes of winning more favorable terms, said German environment ministry spokesman Michael Schroeren.
“That is, in the first place absurd, and secondly from the U.S. point of view completely unnecessary,” Schroeren said in a statement to Bloomberg. “The Paris accord is a dynamic accord. It allows signatory states much flexibility.”
His comments come a day after Perry chided Germany and other European nations for “cheerleading” the Paris deal while allowing their own pollution to increase, particularly from coal plants. The former Texas governor said he would urge President Donald Trump to stay in the accord and renegotiate the terms to hold other nations responsible.
“Don’t sign an agreement and expect us to stay in if you’re not really going to participate and be a part of it,” Perry said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on Tuesday. “We need to renegotiate it. They need to get serious.”
Perry’s criticism of European environmental efforts come as the U.S. is aggressively working to dismantle its own climate change programs. In the same speech that he reprimanded Germany’s for burning coal, Perry called for increasing American fossil fuel production.
The U.S. energy secretary also struck a sore sport in Berlin by calling out Germany’s increased greenhouse gas emissions. Chancellor Angela Merkel has positioned herself as a leader in the fight against climate change, vowing to stand toe-to-toe against Trump on the issue even as he has derided it as a hoax. Germany’s own climate efforts, however, have been less resolute.
The nation’s carbon dioxide output has fallen significantly since 1990 as it replaced coal-fired power plants with wind and solar farms, but in recent years the reductions have been minimal. German’s emissions actually increased in 2016, rising less than one percent to to 906 million metric tons, the Federal Environment Office said in March. Government officials blamed the rise on cold weather and vehicle pollution.
The problem is coal. Even as Germany has installed more renewable energy than any other country in Europe, it still relies on coal for about 42 percent of its power.
“We’re aware of the challenge,” Schroeren said. “By 2030, half of coal-fired power will be terminated compared with 2014.”
Schroeren welcomed Perry’s call for the U.S. to remain party to the Paris accord, brokered in 2015 in the French capital by more than 190 nations.
The U.S. energy secretary’s statements Tuesday marked one of the first times a member of Trump’s cabinet has made a direct public call for remaining part of the agreement. The president, who vowed to “cancel” the agreement during the campaign, is expected to announce his decision next month, when world leaders gather for the Group of Seven summit in Italy.
Trump may deny the Paris accord’s underlying premise. But it’s unclear what, if anything, the president wants to renegotiate about the deal itself, said Alden Meyer, who has followed climate talks for two decades as director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“What is it that he doesn’t like about the agreement? The fact that it lets each country set its own goals? The fact that it requires India and China to come up to our level of reporting and transparency? The fact that it allows flexible market mechanisms?” Meyer said. “This really is a made-in-America agreement.”
Pressure is building both in Washington and beyond for Trump to uphold it.
According to an internal State Department memo circulated ahead of a scheduled meeting of top administration officials Thursday, the accord imposes few obligations on the U.S. That bolsters the case for Trump administration officials pushing to stay in the deal. And on Wednesday, 13 of the world’s largest companies including BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, DuPont Co., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sent a letter to Trump, urging him to stick with the deal.
“The United States’ economic and national security interests are best served by staying in the Paris Agreement,” said David Waskow of the World Resources Institute. “But if the U.S. withdraws from its Paris commitments, it would be left out and left behind at a time when countries around the world are seizing the huge opportunities from taking action.”