Beijing (GPA) – After years of criticism that ‘the US shouldn’t have to act on climate change until other large countries like China do,’ it seems now that is exactly what’s happening.
Following the Trump administration’s announcement yesterday that the latest executive orders will roll back Obama-era regulations on energy production, China vows to uphold their end of the historic Paris climate agreements.
The promise came during a daily news briefing by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang. Who said that China acknowledges that climate change is a global problem and will continue to put concentrated effort into combating it.
Lu told reporters present that China still upholds “that all sides should move with the times, grasp the opportunities, fulfill their promises and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of this agreement.” He also made clear that as far as the US is concerned “No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change.”
Despite being the number one global polluter and now lacking the ‘incentive’ of the US working in cooperation, Lu said China would uphold the promise made by President Xi Jinping. Saying at the UN in January that the country will “continue to make efforts to deal with the climate change and we will honour our obligations 100%.”
Lu’s statements were in direct response to questions raised concerning China’s reaction to the latest executive order by Trump. Although the US has not formally pulled out of the Paris agreements, it will be much harder for the US to reach the agreed on reduction in emissions. Which Trump labeled “almost impossible” – with the destruction of these regulations.
Several leaders from the European Union also responded to Trump’s executive order in the same way: by reaffirming their commitment to the 2015 agreements. The European climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, seemed to respond directly to Trump’s arguments that the regulations were ‘job killers’ when speaking to the Irish Times yesterday. Saying that “We see the Paris Agreement and the transition to a modern, more innovative economy as the growth engine of job creation, investment opportunities and economic prosperity.”
The main focus of Trump’s order yesterday is supposedly aimed at restoring jobs in his favorite sector of energy production – coal. Trump is under the impression that reversing these regulations will bring back coal mining jobs. Despite the fact that the coal power industry is already sitting on a massive surplus and the jobs have been disappearing since the late 80’s. (Which you may remember as long before Obama).
The massive increase in renewable energy as well as a heightened demand for cheaper, cleaner natural gas have far surpassed coal in the past decade. Even with the incentive to restart coal mining it’s unlikely the market’s demand for the fuel will change in any significant way.
The executive order also won’t help further Trump’s goal to make the US energy independent. Mostly since domestic demand for coal is so low that the US barely imports any. Add all this to the fact that these regulations are likely to be put back in place after the next swing of the US political pendulum and investment in major coal facilities doesn’t look like a good long term prospect.
This all happens just as China scraps commitments to future coal plants and shuts down currently operating plants; to such an extent that Beijing is no longer powered by any coal burning facilities. These new developments are also likely to set the tone at an upcoming meeting between Presidents Xi and Trump scheduled for next month at Trump’s Mar a Lago resort.
Image: Flickr – Presidencia de la República del Ecuador and Gage Skidmore
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.