Flexing new muscles as the undisputed leader in global climate action, China is making it clear that if the Trump Administration follows through on its threat to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, there will be an angry international backlash and a tangible geopolitical price to pay.
In an apparent reaction to warnings from Chinese representatives and others issued on Monday, May 8, at the opening of the United Nation’s mid-year climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Trump administration officials have canceled a meeting in Washington DC, scheduled for May 9, in which the fate of the US and the Paris agreement was to be discussed, Reuters reported.
In Bonn, Chai Qimin, director of international cooperation at the Chinese government’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy, joined other diplomats in warning the US against pulling out of Paris.
He and others firmly suggested that retribution in the form of trade deals, a carbon tariff, and possibly even military access would be on the table when the US attends international forums such as the upcoming G7 and G20 summits, according to Climate Change News.
“Definitely it will impact on other diplomatic arenas, already on G7 and G20, the Major Economies Forum as well,” Chai said. “President Xi [Jinping] and our ambassador to the United Nations have said several times that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is irresponsible, which will harm the mutual trust in the multilateral mechanism.”
In Trump’s “America first” campaign, he promised a host of moves that he said would bolster US strength, create domestic jobs, and let the rest of the world shoulder more of the financial burden for military protection. But campaign promises have given way to political reality since Trump has taken office. He is now for Nato, not against it, for example, and he is now rethinking Nafta, not tearing it up, as he had previously pledged to do.
The Obama administration was instrumental in bringing China into the climate action fold in 2014, which led to the historic Paris Agreement in late 2015.
That’s when 196 nations pledged for the first time ever to voluntarily reduce their carbon emissions to stem the worst effects of climate change by 2100.
Undeterred by the Trump Administration’s climate change denialism or the threat to withdraw from the climate accord, every other signatory nation plans to move forward with meeting the voluntary carbon reduction pledges adopted as part of the Paris Agreement.
There is reportedly significant disagreement within the Trump administration over a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which would take four years to accomplish — longer than Trump’s first term. Major US corporations, even some fossil fuel companies, have urged the US to stand by the agreement.
President Xi [Jinping] and our ambassador to the United Nations have said several times that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is irresponsible
– Chai Qimin
Paula Caballero, global director of the World Resources Institute’s climate program, said in a conference call last week attended by Mongabay: “Those urging [Trump] to withdraw from the agreement have manufactured a misleading debate over whether the terms agreed to in Paris could be used to challenge the administration’s [reduced] plans on climate change. This legal infighting is a tactic to cover what is at its heart a purely political decision.
“We firmly believe that weakening the US commitment to climate action is foolhardy and would itself undercut American interests. It would erode trust and undermine US standing internationally on a host of US interests — from trade to national security.
And most importantly, on the economic front, it would leave America behind while other countries are benefiting from the huge economic opportunities we are seeing around the world in transitions to cleaner economies.”
Justin Catanoso, a regular contributor to Mongabay, is a professor of journalism at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Find him on Twitter: @jcatanoso.
Mongabay seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of nature and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development.