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G20 and Climate Change: Is Argentina Adhering to Trump’s Denialism?

Political leaders accused of turning a blind eye to the Paris Agreement.

By | [email protected] | November 28, 2018 4:28pm

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With the current political and economic downfall that has been haunting Argentina this year, the issue of climate change doesn’t appear to be at the top of priority list for most of its citizens. Yet, after this year’s fierce floods and costly droughts, declines in agricultural production has left many suffering and has had detrimental effects on the economy, with losses nearing US $3.4 billion.

With the G20 summit now only two days away, the question of climate change seems to be looming over us once again, and with a world woefully short of its 2-degree target, it appears the perfect time for 2018’s leading powers to congregate and establish a progressive plan for the future. Yet, with President Trump’s denial surrounding the topic of global warming, followed by his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017, claims have been made that Argentina will drop carbon pricing from the agenda in an attempt to accommodate the US head of state.

With a step backwards due to Trump’s regressive approach to the environment, and Argentina’s compliance to the United States’ withdrawal from pressing matters, is our worst nightmare soon to become a reality?

Ice breaking off from the northern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Argentina (Photo via Wikipedia)

The Paris Agreement

In 2016, with President Barack Obama in office, the United States – along with Argentina and 173 other parties – joined the Paris Agreement, one of the most pressing breakthroughs regarding efforts to combat climate change. With enhanced support to assist developing countries, and a mutual effort to limit the world temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, this year saw a positive and progressive change in worldly action concerning global warming and provided hope for the future through ambitious goals and national objectives.

At the time of this agreement, Argentina was responsible for 0.9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 2.5 percent for Brazil, 18 percent for the U.S and 20 percent for China. Yet, with the ‘Bottom-Up’ strategy that was brought on by the Paris Agreement, allowing governments to come up with their own emission reduction plans, Argentina pledged to cut emissions by 15 percent by 2030, concluding that it could rise this cut to 30 percent if it received national support.

However, skeptics that Argentina was to achieve this target have been proven right, given that Argentina actually stands as one of the few countries in the world to increase its targets since the Paris Agreement. Despite the positive agreements that Argentina has shown by adopting policies as the Biofuels Law and the new Renewable Energy Law, additional to the implementation of a carbon tax in December 2017, CAT (Climate Action Tracker) still rates Argentina’s NDC (National Determined Contributions) as ‘Highly Insufficient,’ indicating that their current efforts are not consistent with goals to reduce global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

January 2018 was the fifth warmest January in 138 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. (Photo via Climate.Nasa.Gov)

Trump’s Denialism and Argentina’s Approach to the G20

Clearly, new targets and strategies need to be established in order to rebuild a consensus around climate change, so why does it appear that Argentina, along with other world leaders, are stepping on eggshells regarding its discussion at the G20?

Just two days ago, on November 26th, it was announced that President Trump doesn’t “believe” his own government’s reports on climate change, which outlined the worrying impact and consequences that global warming is expected to have on the US by the end of the century, including expected rises in wildfires, floods, damage to agricultural and tourism industries, and the spread of disease-carrying insects due to a rise in temperature. Trump remains in a state of denial as to the economic toil that the future is likely to bring if efforts are not set in place to combat it.

So where does this leave other leading powers regarding the negotiation of environmental matters at the G20 summit this weekend? Clearly, climate change exists, but will Trump’s denialism be detrimental to the welfare of the planet?

From the outset, according to Climate Home News, it seems as though “a draft communique from the leaders of the G20 shows that resolve to stand up for the Paris Climate Agreement against critical voices, such as the US, may be weakening.” With this “watered-down” statement, officials have been accused of not giving any direct attention to Cop24 climate talks, which start in Katowice, Poland, on Sunday.

So, is the G20 approach to climate change more strategic than dismissive? As stated by Argentina’s G20 sherpa Pedro Villagra Delgado, “Of course we want the Paris Agreement to be mentioned, but we want it to be mentioned, encompassing everyone, albeit in an ambiguous way […] The United States does not say that nothing should be done [about climate change], but that they want to have neither the obligations nor the goals imposed by the Paris Agreement […] The more assertive mentions are made, the more likely it is that the United States will stay away from it.”

Argentine officials still stand in hope for a full consensus to be reached, but in order to avoid a repeat of 2017’s horrors (US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement), it seems that they are doing what they can to address the contents of the plan, in a sensitive and discreet way as to not trigger any undesirable effect.