The year 2020 is shaping up to be one of madness when it comes to the climate change debate. Several huge milestones are in the cards and these cards are on the table.
One is the US Presidential election, where the entire world wants to see if President Trump can pull off another skeptical miracle (or curse, depending on who you ask). The official date for the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is the day after the election, so that too may hang in the balance.
In UN-world there are two monster milestones in 2020. By far the biggest is that the mythical $100 billion a year is supposed to start flowing from America and the rest of the supposedly guilty developed countries, to the developing countries, who claim to be suffering increasingly bad weather because of our prosperity.
In addition, under the Paris Agreement pretty much all of the countries in the world are supposed to raise the level of ambition in their national climate action plans. Note that for the developing countries these action plans are contingent on getting the $100 billion a year, thus there is a close connection.
So if Trump wins and the big bucks don’t show the whole house of green cards just might collapse. This is going to make for a very tense (and loud) year on the climate change front.
Things are already heating up here in 2019. Topping the list is the truly extreme Green New Deal proposal. Most of the Democrat presidential candidates have endorsed the GND, which guarantees it will be a major nomination issue. If a Green New Dealer gets the nomination it will also be a huge election issue, maybe even the deciding one.
The Republican Senate artlessly failed to debate the explosive GND, while the wily Democrat House has silently buried it under eleven different Committees. But while Congress may never vote on the GND, it is not about to go away, quite the opposite. The Presidential race guarantees it a large life, at least until the Democrat National Convention.
While so far avoiding the GND, the Democrats running the U.S. House have promised to introduce a never ending series of separate and distinct climate activist bills. The goal of this piecework strategy is to make climate change a big 2020 election issue, no matter who their candidate is.
On the UN side the Secretary General Antonio Guterres is hosting a special September meeting of national governments, specifically designed to elicit increased ambitions in their new 2020 climate action plans. It is billed as the “plans not speeches” meeting.
Unlike the usual UN talkathon, in this case the proposals to speak are apparently being screened for punch. The Secretary General’s invitation is reported as including this unusually tough talk:
“This summit will be action-oriented. The deliverables and initiatives that will be showcased need to be implementable, scalable and replicable and have the potential to get us in line with the commitments of the Paris Agreement.”
In a parallel article in Britain’s ever-green Guardian newspaper, Guterres says: “I am calling on all leaders to come to New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020.” Ominously, there is also a special track on the “mobilization of youth“.
At this point it is far from clear that any major country is prepared to up their ambition, which might make the meeting a bust. The US is certainly out, even though the meeting is at UN HQ in New York. A lot of the green majors are facing the rapid emergence of skeptical conservative opposition parties, so they are running scared. Germany is a good example. Some, like Brazil, have even been taken over by skeptics, in Trump-like fashion.
So all things considered, 2020 may be the year of the climate crescendo. The volume is certainly picking up here in 2019. Why not, given that in some ways the world order is on the line. It is certainly about time we had a serious debate over climate change policy.
Let the big fight begin.