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European ambassador hits U.S. on climate change

EU ambassador
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The European Union’s ambassador to the U.S., Stavros Lambrinidis, is criticizing America’s outsized impact on climate change, increasing tension between two allies that are already oceans apart on this problem.

Why it matters: The comments, made to reporters Thursday afternoon in Washington, come a week after the bloc said it may impose financial penalties on imports from nations that are less aggressive on climate change as part of its broader European Green Deal plan to curb emissions.

What they’re saying: “Our emissions per capita are much lower than those of our American friend — and I do not believe our living conditions, our purchasing powers, our lifestyles are so far apart to justify such a gap,” Lambrinidis said. “We are leaders here as the European Union, but we don’t want to be, certainly not alone.”

“We hope that we will walk arm and arm with the United States. We hope that the U.S. will rejoin the community of nations under the Paris Agreement. We are concerned about the latest data showing a major increase in carbon emissions last year in the U.S. — almost 3%. That is a lot. There will be no invisible hand to ensure the United States curbs its emissions. This requires strong leadership, political leadership at all levels.”
— Stavros Lambrinidis, EU ambassador to the U.S.

Reality check: The Trump administration has made no indications it plans to rejoin the Paris Agreement, though it can’t officially exit the accord until the day after the 2020 presidential election. The White House did not respond to a request for comment in response to the ambassador's comments.

What we’re watching: Whether Europe’s pressure could prod Congress to act on climate change.

Go deeper: Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ shows the hard road to U.S. emission cuts