Wednesday, October 20

Kerry staged the United States’ rapprochement with the European Union in Brussels | International

John Kerry and Ursula von der Leyen, this Tuesday in Brussels.
John Kerry and Ursula von der Leyen, this Tuesday in Brussels.OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL / EFE

The European Union and the US have pledged on Tuesday to turn the current decade into the turning point in the fight against climate change. The new alliance, which ends four years of transatlantic disagreements, was envisioned during the visit to Brussels by John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for the climate. And although there are discrepancies between Brussels and Washington on some of the measures on the table, such as the tariff on imports produced with excess CO2 emissions, both parties have shown willingness to work so that the United Nations summit in Glasgow (COPS 26) next November marks a definitive turn in the main economies of the planet to limit global warming.

“We are already seeing the great consequences of climate change and the urgency and need to move quickly,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, before Kerry’s visit. The president has indicated the November summit as the objective of the EU and the United States to embark the great economies of the planet in a fight against climate change that avoids possible disasters.

Von der Leyen has stressed that the most visible effects (such as melted glaciers or the desertification of new territories) have been joined by covid-19, which “has taught us that one of the fertile grounds for this pandemic is the loss of biodiversity and the complex world behind ”.

Kerry agreed that “Glasgow is the last, the best chance we have and the best hope that the world will unite.” The US envoy has assured that “scientists are telling us that this decade, from 2020 to 2030, is the decade for action.”

Kerry’s arrival in Brussels, the first by a representative of the new US administration, has sparked an enthusiasm in the European Commission rarely seen before an official visit. The welcoming statement of the President of the European Commission has included the word “wonderful” three times in its first paragraph, addressed both to the presence of Kerry in the community capital and to that of Biden, “a friend of Europe”, in the White House.

The Commission’s Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans, was filled with the same similar enthusiasm as he greeted Kerry at the door of the Berlaymont building, the official headquarters of the community body. The American has been invited to attend the weekly meeting of the commissars’ college, an access that is rarely granted. “Everyone at the College is really excited about the possibility of having a conversation with him,” Timmermans confessed to his guest.

The red carpet for Kerry is proportional to the political torment that Brussels endured during the four years of the administration of Donald Trump, who as soon as he came to power withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. The EU managed, despite everything, to keep the Agreement alive, in part with the help of China, which has allowed Biden to retake it as soon as he reached the White House.

“As Europeans we are aware of the fact that we must contribute to the common cause,” said Von der Leyen. And he recalled that the EU has just extended its commitment to reduce emissions to raise it to 55% in 2030 in relation to the level of 1990. “But we cannot do it alone and, therefore, have you [a EE UU] On our side, as friends and allies, it is enormously important to us ”, affirms the president.

Timmermans has assured that “we are going to work side by side to make Glasgow a success”. The vice president acknowledges that “it will be a considerable effort to achieve it, it will be an effort to convince other major economies to do the right thing,” words that seem directed at China, Brazil or Japan and to which Kerry has nodded.

The very coordination between the EU and the US will not be easy because some of the measures proposed by Brussels, such as the so-called carbon tax on imports from countries that do not respect the commitments to reduce emissions, worry Washington, due to the risk that it becomes a disguised tariff barrier.

The European Parliament will vote this Wednesday on a report in support of the introduction of this carbon rate given that, according to the text, imported Co2 emissions (1,317 million tons) are three times those produced in Europe (424 million).

The president of the parliamentary commission on the Environment, French MEP Pascal Canfin, a firm supporter of the tax, believes that the US has nothing to fear. “Our objective is a rate that complies with the rules of the World Trade Organization and guarantees fair competition, that is the complete opposite of a trade war,” says Canfin.

Jennifer Tollmann, an analyst at E3G, a think tank specializing in climate policy, believes that “the EU and the US can be the new engine of global action, but only if they all pull in the same direction.” Tollmann warns that “we cannot allow the US to try to reinvent the wheel, above all, in regulating the green transition.”

Specialists believe that it is essential that Washington raise its emission reduction targets to match those presented by the EU and the United Kingdom. The US is considering offering a 50% cut in 2030 but in relation to the level of 2005. This percentage is equivalent to 41% in relation to 1990, far from the 55% committed by the EU in relation to that year.

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