Friday, 2 June 2017

Paris agreement: Europe and China vow to keep fighting global warming

Beijing and Brussels join leaders around world in show of solidarity after Trump’s announces US pullout from climate accord

European and Chinese leaders have pledged to continue to combat global warming as widespread condemnation met Donald Trump’s announcement he was pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord.
 Chinese premier Li Keqiang (right) with European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Both spoke of a commitment to tackling global warming.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Trump “can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet.” She said the move was “extremely regrettable and that’s putting it very mildly.”

Leaders from around the world, major businesses and city mayors across America have criticised Trump’s decision, announced on Thursday, to withdraw the US from the global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions agreed in Paris in December 2015.

Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, joined Jean Claude Juncker, the European commission president, on Friday in a show of solidarity at an EU-China summit in Brussels. Both spoke of the importance of continued international cooperation to defeat global warming.

Junker said: “Our relationship is founded on a shared commitment to openness and working together as part of a rules-based international system, and I am glad we can be here today to say this loud and clear. There is no reverse gear to the energy transition. There is no backsliding from the Paris agreement.”

Li added: “The future of China and Europe will be brilliant and splendid.”

Merkel, speaking at a press conference in Berlin, said Germany would not sway from the goals set out in the Paris agreement. “Nothing can or will stop us,” she said, appearing visibly moved. “The road - there’s no doubt about it - is stony, but I am also convinced of the fact we cannot retrace our steps.”

She there were many other partners willing to work together and was “enthused” she added by the response from US companies who were supportive of the deal. “We need this Paris agreement in order to save our creation,” she said.

Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris accord means the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not be party to it.

In an announcement made in the White House garden, he said: “The Paris deal hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries … That’s not going to happen while I’m president, I’m sorry.”

He added: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy responded with a joint statement that said they regretted the US decision to withdraw from the accord, but affirmed “our strongest commitment” to implement its measures and encouraged “all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change”.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said in an unprecedented English-language speech from
the Elysée Palace, that he believed Trump had made a mistake. “I do respect this decision but I do think it is an actual mistake both for the US and for our planet.

“Wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: make our planet great again,” he added.

Downing Street issued a later statement saying the British prime minister, Theresa May, had told Trump of her “disappointment” but Downing Street sources would not say whether May had been asked to sign the declaration from the other European G7 countries.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, accused her of “subservience to Trump”.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, issued a rare statement saying the new administration had joined “a small handful of nations that reject the future”. He said that US states, cities and businesses “will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”.

Former vice-president Al Gore called the move “reckless and indefensible”, while among the business leaders to express regret over the move was Jeff Immelt, the chair and CEO of General Electric, who said “climate change is real” and “industry must now lead”.

The Pittsburgh mayor, Bill Peduto, said he would issue an executive order on Friday pledging the city would follow through on carbon reduction goals. “In cities across America, you’ll see mayors standing up and saying, ‘We got this,’” he told CNN.

Fiji’s prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, who in November will chair an annual climate summit in Germany, said the decision was a grave disappointment for places such as his Pacific island nation and US coastal cities such as New York and Miami that are vulnerable to climate change.

Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea also regretted the US move and reiterated their commitment to implement the agreement. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox, who has often clashed with Trump, said on Twitter the US president was “declaring war on the planet itself”.

Trump’s decision risks destabilising the Paris deal, with remaining participants faced with the choice of trying to make up the shortfall in emissions cuts or following the US’s lead and abandoning the agreement. In 2015, nearly 200 countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the runaway climate change that would occur should temperatures spiral 2C or more above the pre-industrial era.

The US emissions reduction pledge accounts for a fifth of the global emissions to be avoided by 2030, with an analysis by not-for-profit group Climate Interactive showing that a regression to “business as usual” emissions by the US could warm the world by an additional 0.3C by 2100. This would help push global temperature rise well beyond 2C, causing punishing heatwaves, a rise in sea level, displacement of millions of people and the loss of ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Prof John Schellnhuber, a climate scientist and former adviser to the EU, Angela Merkel and the pope, said the US would be the loser from its withdrawal. “China and Europe have become world leaders on the path towards green development already and will strengthen their position if the US slips back. The Washington people around Trump fail to recognise that the climate wars are over, while the race for sustainable prosperity is on.”

Trump followed through with his campaign pledge to “cancel” US involvement in the Paris accord following months of conflicting signals over whether he would do so or just scale back the US ambition to cut emissions.

The withdrawal represents a victory for the nationalist elements in Trump’s administration, such as his strategist Steve Bannon, who have argued the Paris deal undermines an “America first” approach, harms domestic coal production and hinders efforts to repeal Barack Obama-era regulations such as the Clean Power Plan.

Trump sought to frame his decision as part of this nationalist agenda. “The Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” he said. “They don’t put America first. I do, and I always will.”

The anti-agreement faction had jockeyed for Trump’s favour over a rival school of thought, including the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, that argued the US should remain in the Paris deal in order to preserve its diplomatic influence.


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