In the middle of November 2016 politicians and diplomats from the EU, and around the world, arrived in Marrakesh with a simple aim: to discuss the Paris climate accord (the Paris Agreement) and to detail the controls needed to curb the industrial emissions responsible for heating the planet.
Instead, the Marrakech Climate Change Conference found itself reeling in the aftershock of a seismic presidential election in the United States, the outcome of which has seen the rise to office of a man who had previously threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and who had also once called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese.
In the face of the chasmal problem before it, negotiators and diplomats turned from talking of rising seas and climbing temperatures toward how it could be possible to reprimand the United States if Mr Trump makes good on his threats to leave the Paris Agreement.
Mexico has advocated the possibility of a carbon-pollution tax on imports of American-made goods; however, Germany and the European Commission have already rejected calls by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to impose this type of tax, should President-elect Donald Trump quit the global agreement for fighting climate change.
Speaking after the Marrakesh Conference, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks stated that Germany and the EU have decided to opt for emissions trading, a stance which was also confirmed by Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.
“We have always said we didn’t like carbon taxes – both before the US election and after. The European Commission is not thinking of any proposal on a carbon tax,” Mr Cañete told reporters.
The European Union penalises greenhouse gases via a market which has traded at, roughly this month, 5.4 euros ($5.79) a tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, as part of efforts to limit emissions blamed for stoking heat waves, droughts, storms and rising sea.
The EU’s reluctance to confirm any concerted action in the event of the US leaving the Paris Agreement could be seen as another blow to environmentalists who are looking for the EU to step up to the plate in the wake of the Dieselgate Scandal. Further bad news came to European environmentalists this month in the form of a report released confirming that a similar emissions scandal looms in the legislation on tractors and trucks which is not being addressed, and the unveiling of a Winter Package which has been criticised by ten of Europe’s biggest companies for perceived weaknesses of the EU’s renewable energy plan.
Despite all this, and whilst the implications of the US Presidential Election rumbles on for politicians and diplomats, the mood in the business community is said to be considerably calmer.
In his encouraging speech at the Marrakesh climate conference on 16 November 2016, United States Secretary of State John Kerry sought to reassure the international community that the US could still meet the objectives it agreed to in Paris.
“Today our emissions are being driven down because market-based forces are taking hold all over the world,” Kerry said. “Most business people have come to understand: investing in clean energy simply makes good economic sense,” he added, even if the private sector is “demanding even stronger signals” from governments.
While then the wait may continue for EU and global officials to maintain their environmental outlook, in line with commitments made in the Paris Agreement, the private sector appears to be the current guardian for an area of immense public importance.