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Show Me the Money!

Walter Russell Mead

Empty financial promises lie at the very core of the Paris Accords—a promise of $100 billion per year, paid indefinitely into the future by the developed world to developing countries as the price of their participation. Obama promised this, knowing full well that the U.S. Congress would never go along with the U.S. share of this total—$30 billion or so, per year, as far as the eye can see.

And now that the U.S. is pulling out, Turkey—and a lot of other developing countries—realize that without the U.S. financial commitment, they could come up short. They now want the other advanced countries that are staying in the deal to make up for what the U.S. won’t be paying.

Newsflash: that won’t be happening. France is groaning under debt. Germans hate shelling out money, and the EU doesn’t know how it will make up for the losses due to Brexit, much less how it will pony up tens of billions for a green extortion fund.

The FT has some choice details:

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, surprised the German hosts of the G20 summit on Saturday when he told reporters his country may be less inclined to ratify the Paris agreement in the wake of the US decision, suggesting it could jeopardise funds promised to developing countries.

His comments came just hours after he approved a final communiqué at the meeting in Hamburg where the US was left isolated after 19 of the group’s 20 members pledged to fully implement an “irreversible” Paris agreement.

Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, downplayed Mr Erdogan’s remarks on Sunday saying: “It’s about access to international financial mechanisms”, rather than a fundamental rejection of the Paris accord.

That the Germans (and presumably other bien pensant Europeans) were reportedly “surprised” couldn’t be more surprising. This was perhaps the most predictable outcome imaginable.

The fact is, the money was never going to come—especially as a lot of it would be going to corrupt and dictatorial governments. Money to Burma even as the army shoots Rohyingya? To Zimbabwe as Mugabe and his clan line their pockets? Brazil, where the entire political class either has been or is about to be indicted for corruption? Venezuela? Cuba? North Korea? Syria?

The reality of the Paris has always been that they are a set of non-binding commitments to emissions goals in return for non-binding promises to pay lots and lots of money at some later date. It all works as long as everyone agrees to believe in fairies and unicorns. All that the United States has done by walking away early is to expose the whole arrangement for the farce that it is.

And this is just the beginning. Erdogan isn’t going to be the only leader in the developing world who wants the cash up front.

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