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Climate change protest | © Takver/Flickr
Climate change protest | © Takver/Flickr
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China Takes Lead on Climate Change as Trump Considers Backing Down

Picture of Nikki Vargas
Travel Editor
Updated: 28 April 2017
Despite Ivanka’s attempts (or science for that matter), President Trump remains stubbornly opposed to global warming initiatives. Later this May, Trump administration officials will meet to finalize the decision of whether the United States – a leader in climate change initiatives under President Obama – will bow out of the historic Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement brings together representatives of 195 nations in the promise to curb carbon emissions, shift focus from fossil fuels and provide funding to developing nations impacted by climate change. Cancelling the United States’ involvement in the Paris Agreement in lieu of creating more coal jobs, was yet another one of Trump’s sweeping promises made during his campaign trail. Now, as Trump prepares to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement, China may step up to the plate as the new leader in climate change.

“The Paris Agreement is a hard-won achievement,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this past January. “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” With rising temperatures, melting ice caps, droughts and floods, climate change threatens our very existence on earth. It is a problem that no country should be exempt from, particularly the United States, which is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases.

According to National Geographic contributor, Christina Nunez, “While Trump’s order casts uncertainty over U.S. efforts to rein in emissions, China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has not paused in its drive to ramp up renewable energy and curb its use of coal. It just halted the construction of 103 new coal-fired power plants, and its energy agency at the start of the year announced plans to pour more than $360 billion into renewable energy by the end of the decade.”

Donald Trump | © Michael Vadon
Donald Trump | © Michael Vadon/Flickr

As China steps onto the world stage of climate change, Trump’s intention to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement not only robs the country of a historic opportunity to tackle one of the greatest issues facing humanity, but also sacrifices job opportunities.

Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the environmental think tank World Resources Institute, tells National Geographic, “U.S. businesses and jobs currently serve export markets such as India that are much bigger than the domestic market. If walking away from [the Paris Agreement] also means walking away from all that, then we are definitely undercutting our competitiveness and undercutting many sectors of the economy that are actually doing really well in the U.S. right now.”

Should the United States back down from the issue of climate change, it is unclear whether other participating countries will resolve to continue the fight against global warming or if the Paris Agreement will dissolve altogether. Under President Obama, the Paris Agreement held strict accountability rules to ensure participating countries would uphold their promised goals to limit carbon emissions.

“I’m quite worried that you might see some of the more recalcitrant parties from Paris kind of gang up and actually begin to weaken some of the accountability rules,” Light told National Geographic. “I don’t know to what extent the Chinese would step into that role that the U.S. had of trying to push for a lot harder accountability.”

Next month will be a game changer in the fight against climate change as the world waits to see whether our nation’s leaders will uphold their promise to save humanity.