Following Donald Trump’s announcement yesterday that the United States would pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Chinese state media has stepped forward to lecture the US president about the importance of protecting the environment and the dangers of global climate change.
An editorial from China’s official Xinhua news agency calls Trump’s decision a “huge setback for global efforts against climate change,” though it also notes that it’s not a particularly surprising move from someone who has repeatedly denounced global warming as nothing more than a “hoax.”
More optimistically, China Daily argues in an opinion piece that Trump’s decision may well serve as a rallying cry for the rest of the world to become more serious about the fight against climate change. The state media outlet cites statements made by former US president Barack Obama, arguing that “even in the absence of American leadership” other countries across the world (including, of course, China) will do “even more to protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
Even before the announcement was formally made yesterday, the nationalistic tabloid the Global Times was ready with an op-ed blasting Trump’s “selfishness and irresponsibility” which will “cripple” America’s global leadership, gleefully adding that Trump “doesn’t care about putting the US’s reputation at risk.”
In his historic announcement in Rose Garden yesterday, Trump rejected the Paris Agreement because “we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore,” in a falsity-filled speech during which he somehow managed to criticize the accord for being “draconian” while calling it “nonbinding” in the same sentence: “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
To explain his decision, Trump seemed to try to portray the Paris Agreement as a vast global conspiracy concocted to wreck the American economy, but not the economy of the world’s other biggest polluter — China.
Both supporters and critics have argued that China’s environmental goals are hardly ambitious in the Paris accord, simply benchmarks that Beijing planned to reach anyway. Under the accord, China will not have to cap greenhouse gas emissions until 2030, something that Trump does not think fair. “China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years — 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us,” Trump said.
However, Trump fails to mention that under the accord China would have to cut carbon emissions by 60-65% per unit of GDP by 2030, while also boosting its use of non-fossil fuels so that they account for 20% of energy consumption. He also fails to mention that China’s emissions have been either falling or stable since 2013 and the country’s coal consumption has fallen for three years in a row. Meanwhile, China has become a world leader in developing renewable energy, installing enough solar panels to cover three football fields every hour, according to the Washington Post.
“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement,” Trump said later in his speech, which is a blatant misconstruction of the Paris accord — a nonbinding agreement allowing each nation to set its own targets that says nothing about giving permission to China to build coal plants, or barring the US from building its own plants. In fact, earlier this year China announced that it would halt construction on plans to build 104 new coal-fired power plants, mostly in the smoggy northeast.
Every time this Trump/Paris statement touches on something I actually know about (espec. China, coal, details of deal), it is *complete* BS.
— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) June 1, 2017
Whether or not you agree with Trump’s reasoning for pulling out of the agreement, the move would certainly seem to be a massive PR coup for the PRC who some are now beginning to see as the world’s highly unlikely (and suspect) leader not only in globalization, but in environmental protection efforts as well — filling a leadership role left vacant by the US. Chinese state media is quick to note that only two countries have not signed the Paris Agreement: Nicaragua, who doesn’t think the accord does nearly enough, and Syria, who is in the middle of a bloody civil war.
China appears to have taken this opportunity and ran with it, planning to issue an unprecedented joint statement with the European Union committing to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. During a meeting with senior EU officials at a summit in Brussels earlier this week, China’s Premier Li Keqiang called fighting climate change an “international responsibility,” stressing his country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, before taking a sly shot at Trump.
“Fighting climate change is a global consensus, it’s not invented by China… and we realize that this is a global consensus agreement and that as a big developing nation we should shoulder our international responsibility,” Li said.
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