Climate Weekly: Macron grabs Merkel’s climate crown

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France's Emmanuel Macron is making environmental protection a key theme of his presidency (Pic: Government of France)


Angela Merkel’s reputation as a tough climate advocate globally has long been tempered by a weak performance on cutting emissions at home. 

As she closes in on a coalition deal with the Social Democrats that will cement her fourth term as chancellor, her green credentials have taken a further blow.

A draft position paper admitted Germany’s 2020 emissions reduction target “will no longer be achieved” – to the dismay of international observers.

While the formal negotiating document on Friday dropped that phrase and affirmed commitment to the 2020 goal, it was followed with the caveat measures would be introduced to close the gap “as much as possible”.

Emmanuel Macron is clearly eager to take up the baton for Europe. The French president took his unique brand of direct diplomacy to China, where he went viral on social media by learning to say “make our planet great again” in Mandarin.

It remains to be seen whether the style will be followed by substance; his meeting with Xi Jinping did not yield any new climate initiatives.

In the UK, meanwhile, climate change was reinstated as a cabinet position – although it took a backseat in Theresa May’s landmark environment speech, which majored on reducing plastic waste.

Tesla v Trump

Multiple reports this week quoted Donald Trump reiterating his ambiguous position on the Paris Agreement: open to re-entering under some unspecified more favourable terms for the US.

The better ones – like this from AP – noted the context. His remarks came in a press conference with Norway prime minister Erna Solberg, who evidently had more confidence in American innovation than POTUS.

Solberg noted that many Norwegians drive Tesla electric cars, as an example of the “tremendous economic and business opportunities” in fighting climate change.

In Australia, too, the US firm is generating excitement. A Tesla battery installed in South Australia to help balance its renewables-rich electricity grid exceeded expectations in its first month, according to researcher Dylan McConnell. Neighbouring Victoria has placed an order.

Delta blues

Farmers are leaving Vietnam’s fertile Mekong Delta in droves. Researchers Alex Chapman and Van Pham Dang Tri see a climate change fingerprint on their migration patterns.

Read more on: Climate politics