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Climate Change at Taormina

Matthew McIntosh, G7 Research Group
May 25, 2017

On November 4, 2016, the United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force. During the negotiations, the agreement was also a focus of G7 discussions, including at Ise-Shima, Japan, in 2016. By the end of 2016, every G7 member had signed and ratified the agreement. Climate change and the Paris Agreement will be addressed again when G7 leaders meet again at Taormina, Italy, on May 26-27. The world is thus waiting to see how well G7 members address this issue and fulfill the climate commitments they make at Taormina.

Germany, with G7 veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel at the helm and a record of high compliance, will likely comply with Taormina's climate change commitments. Indeed, Germany fully complied with the G7's 2015 commitment to work towards a low-carbon economy. At the other end of the spectrum is Japan, which partially complied with the same commitment while also ratifying the Paris Agreement at a later date. Falling in between is Canada, incoming G7 host, which has a mixed record on environmental commitments. However, more recently, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has proposed a national carbon pricing scheme, established the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and expressed full support for the Paris Agreement. Canada may therefore improve its compliance going into its year as host of the G7 in 2018.

There is also room for improvement on climate change control from the current host, Italy, with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni hosting for the first time. Gentiloni became prime minister in December 2016 following Matteo Renzi's resignation after losing a constitutional referendum. Gentiloni welcomed the Paris Agreement as facilitating sustainable development and confirmed Italy's commitment to focus on climate change. However, Italy has complied with only one climate change commitment from the last four summits. Most notably, it failed to comply with its 2014 Brussels commitment to limit the increase in global temperatures to below 2°C, the goal the Paris Agreement set in order to avoid the worst catastrophe of climate change. Italy will thus likely partially comply or not comply at all with Taormina's climate change commitments.

Similarly, after the referendum to leave the European Union, British prime minister Theresa May assumed power on July 13, 2016. She quickly demonstrated her stance on climate change by abolishing the Department for Energy and Climate Change and then minimizing these responsibilities by moving them into the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In the past, however, the United Kingdom has always partially or fully complied with the G7's climate change commitments. It will thus likely continue the trend at Taormina.

After defeating Marine Le Pen of the right-wing National Front, Emanuel Macron took office as president of France on May 14, 2017. Taormina will also be his first G7 summit. A supporter of the Paris Agreement, Macron has said he will reinforce investments and preserve budgets for climate change. With a strong compliance record on climate change, France will continue to fulfill its Paris Agreement obligations and related Taormina commitments.

U.S. president Donald Trump is the fourth first-timer at Taormina, defeating U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the 2016 federal election. Although Trump campaigned on the promise that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, he has decided to make his choice on this matter at the conclusion of the Taormina Summit. In addition to the pressure on Trump to support the Paris Agreement by his G7 counterparts, there is uncertainty whether the United States will uphold Taormina's climate commitments. Although the Obama administration managed to maintain a solid compliance record, Trump's denial of climate change means that the United States will produce polices that do not fully comply with Taormina's climate proposals. It will thus be up to the rest of the leaders to form a coalition to support climate change.

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Matthew McIntoshMatthew McIntosh is a researcher with the G7 Research Group and G20 Research Group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He is in his third year of undergraduate studies at Western University in London, Ontario, where he is studying political science.


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