Katherine Butler details the broad erosion of European confidence in the US as an ally in a June 29, 2020 piece published by The Guardian under the title, “Europeans’ trust in US as world leader collapses during pandemic.” The collapse of Europeans’ trust in the US is a rational response to Trump’s willful abdication of global leadership. Their response must be greater cooperation among EU member States and greater ownership of global issues such as the pandemic and the climate crisis.
Americans’ support for NATO and the EU remain high; a Biden administration should be able to restore much if not all of Europeans’ confidence in the US as a trustworthy friend and ally in times of need. Biden would declare his full support for NATO shortly after assuming office, and he will also announce that the US is rejoining the Paris Agreement. Given the major issues facing him upon assuming office — the ongoing pandemic, a Covid-closed economy struggling to rebound, and the need to reckon finally with systemic racial injustice — it’s not at all certain if Biden will reassume the global leadership role on the climate that made President Obama so influential in the adoption of the Paris Agreement by a near-universal 195 countries. The EU, and especially French President Emmanuel Macron, must step up to lead the world’s quick-step march to a global clean energy system.
Leading that charge won’t be easy, given the reliance of nearly every country on fossil fuels for energy, jobs, and a social fabric of communities long dependent on provision of ancillary services in the mining of, exploration for, production, refinement, and combustion of those fossil resources of energy for lighting, heating, cooling, manufacture, and transportation. The transition to clean energy will be expensive and wrenching, but it must be done to avert far more costly degradation of the environment, reductions in GDP, and untenable costs in human lives lost or impaired. The EU must become a counterweight to the increasingly bipolar competition between the US and China. It must exert its influence, greatest if collective, on both super-emitters to convert to clean energy as rapidly as possible. If all three entities commit to a rapid transition to decarbonized energy, other nations will be more willing to make the switch themselves, and will need less support in achieving that change-over.