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China, EU strengthen commitment to Paris climate pact in rebuff to Trump

Photo: AP

China and the EU will forge an alliance to take a leading role in tackling climate change in response to President Donald Trump's expected decision to pull the US out of the historic Paris climate agreement.

Amid growing fears that the US will soon join Nicaragua and Syria on the small list of countries refusing to back the climate accord, signed in 2015, Chinese and EU leaders are to agree a joint statement on the Paris climate agreement saying it is "an imperative more important than ever".

According to a statement being prepared before an EU-China summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, the new alliance will say that they are determined to "lead the energy transition" toward a low-carbon economy.

For more than a year, Chinese and EU officials have been working behind the scenes to agree a joint statement on climate change and clean energy.

The document highlights the dangers posed by rising temperatures "as a national security issue and multiplying factor of social and political fragility," while pointing out that the transition to clean energy creates jobs and economic growth.

"The EU and China consider the Paris agreement as an historic achievement further accelerating the irreversible global low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient development," the draft document says.

"The Paris Agreement is proof that with shared political will and mutual trust, multilateralism can succeed in building fair and effective solutions to the most critical global problems of our time. The EU and China underline their highest political commitment to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement in all its aspects."

The EU's climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, told the Guardian, "No one should be left behind, but the EU and China have decided to move forward. Our successful cooperation on issues like emissions trading and clean technologies are bearing fruit. Now is the time to further strengthen these ties to keep the wheels turning for ambitious global climate action."

"The Americans can't just exit this climate protection treaty," EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a speech in Berlin on Wednesday. "I'm opposed to behaving like vassals of the Americans. It's Europe's obligation to say: You can't do that."


Trump tweeted on Wednesday, "I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" Axios, the website, and other US media outlets have reported that Trump has decided that the US should withdraw from the accord.

Trump's advisers are deeply split over whether he should follow through on his campaign pledge to quit the Paris accord. Steve Bannon, his chief strategist who leads the economic nationalist camp, has been the leading advocate for withdrawal along with a big group of Republican senators. But Gary Cohn, head of the White House national economic council, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, and Trump's daughter Ivanka, are trying to persuade the president not to withdraw.

Business figures are also urging Trump to stay in the accord. Elon Musk, the Tesla cofounder, tweeted on Wednesday that he would "have no choice but to depart" the president's business and technology advisory councils if the US pulled out of Paris. And Apple chief executive Tim Cook called the president earlier this week to try to persuade him not to abandon the agreement.

Apple is among the Silicon Valley signatories to a letter urging Trump to "keep the US in the Paris Agreement". The letter, which is running as a full-page ad in several US newspapers in May and June, is also signed by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Intel, as well as Unilever, Gap and Morgan Stanley.

China's leading role

The expected announcement in Brussels illustrates China's determination to take a leadership role in the world as Trump turns the US inwards and prepares to shun its commitments under a international agreement Barack Obama had described as a "turning point for our planet" and a "major leap for mankind".

The joint EU-China statement will offer a high level of detail on how they intend to make real the promises they made when they agreed to limit global warming to well below 2C (3.6F).

The EU, which has pioneered an emissions trading system, has agreed to provide China with $11.2 million to support its plan to roll out its own program this year.

Both sides will also promise to help developing countries reduce their carbon footprint, and the EU will increasingly share its technological knowhow. "Tackling climate change and reforming our energy systems are significant drivers of job creation, investment opportunities and economic growth," the joint statement is expected to say.

Li Shuo, the climate policy adviser of Greenpeace East Asia, said that it was crucial for the largest emitters of carbon to fill the vacuum left by the US’s likely decision.

He said, "The rapid backlash of US climate action requires enhanced leadership from all other countries. At the upcoming EU-China summit, Beijing and Brussels need to demonstrate they are putting new and collective leadership into concrete terms. If US-China climate cooperation gave birth to the Paris agreement, now it is up to EU and China to defend and enhance it."

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