China may take lead on com­bat­ing cli­mate change

Ac­tivists: Eco­nomic gain could fol­low

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

With cli­mate change seem­ingly ab­sent from the agenda, the week­end meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and his Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping un­der­scored that the U.S. has all but aban­doned its sta­tus as the in­ter­na­tional leader on global warm­ing and ceded that po­si­tion to China.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi said noth­ing pub­licly about past com­mit­ments be­tween the two na­tions to work to­gether to fight cli­mate change, and there seems to be a grow­ing un­der­stand­ing among Chi­nese of­fi­cials that their coun­try may now have the re­spon­si­bil­ity — and a key eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, ac­tivists say — to be­come the global leader on the is­sue.

“China clearly and right­fully sees Trump’s back­wards look­ing pol­icy and in­ept leadership as an op­por­tu­nity to be­come a global leader, but it’s also step­ping into the vac­uum sim­ply through its self-in­ter­est as a coun­try threat­ened by the im­pacts of cli­mate change,” said Travis Ni­chols, a spokesman for Green­peace, a lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist group.

“You don’t have to be a vi­sion­ary to see cli­mate change as a threat and fos­sil fu­els as out­dated. You just have to be a half­way com­pe­tent leader,” he added.

Late in Pres­i­dent Obama’s sec­ond term, the U.S., China, and a host of other na­tions struck a land­mark cli­mate deal in Paris. The agree­ment, her­alded as the most am­bi­tious in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change deal in his­tory, called on the U.S. to re­duce its green­house gas emis­sions by at least 26 per­cent by 2025.

China agreed to cap its emis­sions by 2030 and then be­gin re­duc­tions. The deal was not a for­mal treaty and does not carry any ma­jor con­se­quences, other than public sham­ing.

While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion still is weigh­ing whether to exit the deal for­mally, it’s taken steps that will make meet­ing the emis­sions goal vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Among other things, the pres­i­dent has in­structed his En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to be­gin un­do­ing the Clean Power Plan, a set of lim­its on car­bon emis­sions from power plants and a cru­cial piece of meet­ing the broader emis­sions goal.

Not only is the ad­min­is­tra­tion tak­ing steps to pull back from the Paris deal, high-rank­ing of­fi­cials also are pub­licly bad-mouthing it, send­ing a clear sig­nal to the Chi­nese that the Obama-era U.S. com­mit­ment no longer ap­plies.

“What was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India, the largest pro­duc­ers of CO2 in­ter­na­tion­ally, got away scot-free. They didn’t have to take steps un­til 2030,” EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt said last month. “Paris was just a bad deal, in my es­ti­ma­tion.”

China re­mains the world’s largest car­bon pol­luter, mak­ing the Paris deal a key turn­ing point in in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change. Within the coun­try, there’s a sense that the U.S. is walk­ing away from both its global re­spon­si­bil­ity and years of pres­sur­ing China and other coun­tries to take ac­tion.

“West­ern opin­ion should con­tinue to pres­sure the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on cli­mate change. Wash­ing­ton’s po­lit­i­cal self­ish­ness must be dis­cour­aged,” reads an edi­to­rial in China’s Global Times last month. “China will re­main the world’s big­gest de­vel­op­ing coun­try for a long time. How can it be ex­pected to sac­ri­fice its own de­vel­op­ment space for those de­vel­oped west­ern pow­er­houses?”

For now at least, China seems to be mov­ing ahead with its emis­sions re­duc­tion goals.

A United Na­tions re­port pub­lished in De­cem­ber — just as the Trump tran­si­tion team was de­vel­op­ing plans to shelve U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions — said that China in­tends to take steps to be­gin re­duc­ing its emis­sions even be­fore the 2030 dead­line.

It’s also speed­ing its de­vel­op­ment of re­new­able en­ergy, which en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists ar­gue gives the coun­try an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate jobs through green power and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances.

“China will spread the use of low-car­bon tech­nolo­gies and prod­ucts, up­date the car­bon emis­sion stan­dard sys­tem and push for the es­tab­lish­ment of a uni­fied na­tional car­bon emis­sions trad­ing mar­ket,” reads part of a re­port from the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping met ear­lier this week in Palm Springs, Florida. Cli­mate change was seem­ingly ab­sent from their dis­cus­sions. Mr. Xi and China may take the lead on this is­sue --- a key eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity ac­tivists say.

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