The World Turns To China for Leadership on Climate Change

With today being World Environment Day,  a new sobering reality is ushered in with the United States having upped and left the most important environmental agreement of the century, the Paris Climate Accord. The world will now look to countries such as China and India to take the leading role in tackling climate change. Upon hearing of Donald Trump’s decision to protect the people of ‘Pittsburgh’ and not Paris, Farhan Haq, spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres, has issued a statement saying, “The Secretary General has been very appreciative, not just of India and China, but of all the countries who are trying to meet their commitments. It has been very clear from their own nationally declared contributions that these are countries who are trying to play their part in doing what they can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

This looks like a window of opportunity for the East according to a new report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, the global commitment to a greener future will provide growth of around $1.5 trillion for Asian cities by creating tens of millions of new jobs mainly in the renewable sector. One of the main focal points of the Paris agreement was curbing the huge impact on environmental health that has been seen in the booming economies of Asian countries like India and China. Taking China as an example, it has made the biggest contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases in the last several years, accounting for 29% in 2015 alone. However the country has proven willing to promote change in the Paris talks, promising to cut its carbon intensity by up to 65% in the next 15 years this is an impressive commitment considering China still produces 62% of its energy using coal, but it looks like it could actually be achieved given that carbon dioxide pollution has gone down in China even faster than they predicted already.

Like China, other world leaders such as European powers will be working together to promote energy efficiency and strategy for sustainable development. And it is thanks to Trump that this new bond between China and Europe is continuing to grow; having berated China on several occasions throughout his electoral campaign, Trump only seems to be helping the Chinese in global relations. Following the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January, the latest development with the Paris agreement only serves to promote China as a more stable trading partner for other countries committed to progress in areas like the environment and new technology. The EU commissioner for climate action and energy, Miguel Arias Cañete added, “No one should be left behind, but the EU and China have decided to move forward… Now is the time to further strengthen these ties to keep the wheels turning for ambitious global climate action.”

As Trump’s America retreats from the rest of the world in a bid to put ‘America First’, China, a country who traditionally have been tight-lipped when it comes to the inner workings of their political system, is making clear its ambitions to join forces with other countries; its staggering One Belt, One Road initiative aims to create infrastructure to link China with 64 countries from the Middle East to Europe.

What is the Paris agreement? : 

Representatives from 196 nations made a historic pact on 12th December 2015 in Paris to limit their greenhouse emissions effectively and limit the rise in global temperatures by 2020, holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. For the US to hit that 2-degree target, the pledge involves 26 to 28 percent reductions by 2025 which increasingly looks impossible.