- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covers international finance. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to pull out of the Paris climate accord, an agreement that comes into effect this Friday among almost 200 nations that is meant to help combat climate change. China thinks Trump’s plan is a bad idea.
In a rare foray into American presidential politics, China’s top climate change negotiator Xie Zhenhua said Tuesday that a wise president would fall into line with international norms. He made this comment in response to a question about how China would work with Trump to improve the environment.
“If they resist this trend, I don’t think they’ll win the support of their people, and their country’s economic and social progress will also be affected,” Xie said. “I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends.”
The irony is rich. China, after decades of breakneck economic growth that led to a spike in greenhouse gas emissions, is now working to rein in pollution and carbon emissions. For years, U.S. lawmakers, especially Republicans, have argued against implementing potentially onerous climate policies in the United States, given China’s huge and dirty economy. Now, Beijing is the one urging Washington to clean up its act.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has pledged to work to meet President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025. Trump has pledged to pull out of the agreement while increasing the amount of coal the United States burns in order to bring back mining jobs.
If the United States were to leave the accord, it would remove a major incentive for China to stick with it. Beijing plans to launch its own nationwide carbon-trading program next year, something that the U.S. Senate shot down in 2010. Under a pilot program, 120 million carbon allowances have already been traded, with a market value of $472 million.
Trump’s threat has some teeth. His energy advisor, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), said if he becomes president, the GOP nominee plans to submit the agreement to the Senate for ratification, where it would likely fail; it would need two-thirds of the Senate to approve it. This would allow Trump to shift the onus for killing the deal onto lawmakers.
In September, 376 scientists penned a letter blasting Trump’s plan and warning it would have “severe and long-lasting consequences … for the international credibility of the United States.” (The same can be said — and has– about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, another international deal Trump wants to scrap.)
The next round of U.N. climate talks will kick off Nov. 7, the day before the U.S. election. If Trump wins, those talks are going to end up being less about the nuts and bolts of implementing the first global climate pact, and more about how to simply salvage the thing.
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