23 July 2019
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang review the honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang review the honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

As US retreats, EU and China seek climate leadership at summit

China and the European Union will seek on Friday to save an international pact against climate change that US President Donald Trump appears to be set to pull out of.

As China emerges as Europe’s unlikely global partner on areas from free trade to security, Premier Li Keqiang will meet top EU officials at a summit in Brussels that will also discuss North Korea’s missile tests, Reuters reports.

In a statement backed by all 28 EU states, the European Union and China will commit to full implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, EU and Chinese officials said.

The joint statement, the first between the China and the EU, commits to cutting back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology and helping raise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut emissions.

“The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever,” the statement, by European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and China’s Li, will say, according to Reuters.

“The increasing impacts of climate change require a decisive response.”

China asked that the annual summit, normally held in mid-July, be brought forward to press home President Xi Jinping’s defense of open trade at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, in response to Trump’s protectionist stance.

But Trump’s plan to follow through on a campaign pledge to withdraw from the Paris accord, agreed on by nearly 200 countries in 2015, is now dominating, diplomats said.

China, which overtook the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007, is ready to support the EU, despite tensions on other issues from human rights to trade, according to China’s ambassador to the EU, Yang Yanyi.

“China and the EU need to steadfastly adhere to the Paris agreement,” Yang said in a written briefing to reporters.

The warmer EU-China relationship, partly spurred by Trump, is despite a long-running spat with Beijing on what Europe sees as China’s dumping of low-cost goods on European markets.

“No one should be left behind, but the EU and China have decided to move forward,” Miguel Arias Canete, the European commissioner who has led climate talks with Beijing, said of the Paris accord.

In Washington, Trump is under pressure from corporate CEOs, US allies, Democrats and some fellow Republicans to keep the US in a global pact to fight climate change.

But a source close to the matter said the US president was preparing to pull out of the Paris accord, Reuters said.

A US withdrawal could deepen a rift with its allies. The US would join Syria and Nicaragua as the world’s only non-participants in the landmark 195-nation accord agreed upon in Paris in 2015.

Responding to shouted questions from reporters in the White House Oval Office, Trump declined to say whether he had made up his mind, saying, “You’ll find out very soon.”

“I’m hearing from a lot of people, both ways,” Trump said as he met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump blasted the accord, and called global warming a hoax aimed at weakening US industry.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump was working out terms of the planned withdrawal with US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, an oil industry ally and climate change doubter.

The pact was the first legally binding global deal to fight climate change. Virtually every nation voluntarily committed to steps aimed at curbing global emissions of “greenhouse” gases.

These include carbon dioxide generated from burning of fossil fuels that scientists blame for a warming planet, sea level rise, droughts and more frequent violent storms.

The US committed to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Advocates of the climate deal pressured Trump, who has changed his mind on large decisions before even after signaling a move in the opposite direction.

The chief executives of dozens of companies have made last-minute appeals to Trump. The CEOs of ExxonMobil Corp., Apple Inc., Dow Chemical Co., Unilever NV and Tesla Inc. were among those urging him to remain in the agreement.

Tesla’s Elon Musk threatened to quit White House advisory councils if the president pulls out.

Musk said: “I’ve done all I can to advise directly” to Trump and through others in the White House.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., an Ohio-based coal company and major Trump campaign donor, urged Trump to withdraw from the deal.

But on Wednesday, US coal company shares fell alongside renewable energy stocks following reports that Trump would pull out.

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