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France's Climate Change Leadership in the European Union and the World:
What This Means for Biarritz

Tyler McMurdo, G7 Research Group
Feburary 3, 2019

France, under President Emmanuel Macron, has taken a significant leadership role on the world stage in promoting multilateral cooperation — especially regarding climate change. This leadership comes during a time when multilateral cooperation and global governance seem to be threatened (i.e., with the U.S. decline in leadership in the "liberal world" under the Trump administration and with Brexit and other nationalist, anti-EU movements on the rise in Europe). France recognizes that international cooperation is crucial for the fight against climate change and that a fragmented Europe or a fragmented world would not benefit this fight. With this in mind, France's pro-European stance on integration and its promotion of global cooperation in the fight against climate change on the world stage are sure to influence the nature of the G7 Biarritz Summit in August 2019.

Europe has a long history of political fragmentation. Indeed, the continent was at war for hundreds of years. Yet Europe is now a place where historical enemies have come to cooperate more deeply than any place on Earth. EU integration has played a significant role in maintaining this cooperation and has shown to benefit Europe's general prosperity. For this prosperity to continue, EU members must continue to work together to fight one of the world's most pressing security threats: climate change. Macron has taken a leading role in promoting action against climate change both at the European Union and at the international level.

When I was in Brussels in mid 2018, I met with politicians and staff from different EU institutions including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European External Action Service. With Brexit being a hot topic in Europe during this time and with right-wing nationalist movements on the rise in Europe, almost every politician or staff member I spoke to commented on France's leadership role in the European Union, particularly in promoting deeper EU integration and cooperation, as well as its leadership on issues such as climate change. Indeed, Macron has consistently "called for a 'profound transformation of the EU with deeper political integration'." This call for deeper political integration includes deeper cooperation regarding climate change.

Macron has been one of the most active EU leaders in promoting the fight against climate change alongside and with the EU. For example, in September 2018, France and the European Union launched a partnership with Australia and New Zealand on Pacific biodiversity, climate change and resilience. The EU pledged €10 million and France pledged an additional €10 million for this initiative.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has provided even more impetus to Macron's climate change leadership. At the EU level, Macron, in partnership with other EU leaders (including European G7 leaders), responded to this action by firmly stating that the Paris Agreement "cannot be renegotiated" under any circumstances.

At the global level, Macron initiated the annual One Planet Summit in 2017 to "accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement" and called for "countries to massively increase funding for climate change." At the 2018 One Planet Summit Macron stated, "We are not here just to speak, but to be accountable" regarding the fight against climate change.

The G7 is facing similar problems to international cooperation with serious consequences on the multilateral fight against climate change. Trump, the leader of the G7's most powerful member, has openly disregarded global governance regimes, such as in the United Nations, called for the United States to distance itself from NATO, and withdrew from the Paris Agreement, thus not participating in certain G7 commitments related to climate change.
Trump's actions jeopardize G7 cooperation and unity on climate change. Despite this obstacle to G7 cooperation on climate change, Macron chose climate change and biodiversity as one of the priorities of France's G7 presidency.

It can be expected that Macron will use his climate change leadership at the European Union as an asset at the Biarritz Summit. In fact, one of France's announced G7 presidency priorities was "Europe," which encompasses the European Union and cooperation. Furthermore, French foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that France "must also show that [Europe will] provide coherent responses to these various challenges … [and France will] promote the strengthening of, and closer coordination between, those powers that believe we must face up together to mankind's major shared challenges."

With France's demonstrated diplomatic leadership, it is likely that the Biarritz Summit will be a opportunity to encourage fuller EU cooperation and broader international cooperation to fight climate change.

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Tyler McMurdoTyler McMurdo is a lead analyst for the G7 Research Group and was a compliance analyst for the G20 Research Group. Studying at the University of Western Ontario, she is pursuing an honours specialization in political science and a major in globalization and global governance with a focus on East Asia. Tyler holds basic Japanese language proficiency and continues to study Japanese. She is also an experienced lobbyist and advocate for human rights and refugees, and is associate director of policy and research at HanVoice, Canada's largest non-governmental organization on North Korean human rights.


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