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EU Calls Trump’s Coal Move a ‘Global Disaster’ as Nations Renew Climate Vows

Posted by hkarner - 31. März 2017

Date: 30-03-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Europeans call on U.S. to stick to Paris accord while Asian nations said president’s embrace of coal wouldn’t derail their efforts

China says it will stick to its climate commitments despite the Trump administration’s effort to roll back the Obama environmental legacy.

European officials issued rebukes and officials around Asia said they would continue their drive toward cleaner fuels after President Donald Trump laid the groundwork to reverse his predecessor’s climate-change policies.

Mr. Trump, citing the need to revive the U.S. coal industry and ease the regulatory burden, began on Tuesday to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan of stricter carbon-dioxide limits on utilities.The change leaves an opening for China and other countries to seize leadership in the global effort to curb the rise in temperatures, as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which went into force in November.

The U.S. move raised questions about what steps, if any, the Trump administration would take to comply with the Paris commitments.

“I think it’s a disaster, not only for the U.S., but a global disaster,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Union’s executive branch, which helped broker the Paris agreement, said on Wednesday of Mr. Trump’s move. He said the EU “has to advocate the need to stick to the agreement reached in Paris. I insist on talking to our American partners.”

China, the biggest emitter of climate-changing gases, won’t change its climate-change policies, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

“We still advocate that all sides should move with the times, grasp opportunities, fulfill their promises and earnestly take positive action to jointly promote implementation of (the Paris) agreement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

Australia’s conservative government said it had no plans to abandon its Paris-accord target. “Australia takes its international commitments very seriously,” said Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg.

In India, Piyush Goyal, the minister for power and coal, said a day before Mr. Trump’s announcement that the country is “pursuing religiously” its goal of developing 225 gigawatts of renewable and clean energy sources by 2022. On Wednesday a senior official reiterated the commitment to the Paris accord.

“It’s not subject to some other country’s?decision,” he said.

Indonesia, whose forest-clearing fires are a source of greenhouse gases, also recommitted to the Paris Agreement on Wednesday.

Even if the U.S. curtails aid to Indonesia for climate programs, “we will not stop or withdraw,” said Nur Masripatin, the director-general of climate change at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, adding that she believes the U.S. people still support the fight against climate change.

Brazil’s government didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the Trump administration’s executive order, but the country has generally supported global efforts to fight climate change.

“We understand that we have a responsibility,” said Luiz Felipe de Seixas Corrêa, a former deputy foreign minister and longtime diplomat, adding that Brazil doesn’t see its economic prospects hindered by climate-change regulations. “If the United States backs away from this agreement, it’s going to harm the United States, it’s going to harm the solidity of the agreement and it’s going to harm the whole world. Without the biggest global power [the agreement] isn’t really global.”

In the U.S., Democrats announced swift opposition to Mr. Trump’s action, which is all but certain to trigger legal and political pushback that could take years to resolve. The rollback will likely take “some time,” the White House said.

While Mr. Trump tries to revive America’s struggling coal industry, China—the world’s biggest coal producer and consumer—aims to cut production further. It views its coal demand as entering a long-term decline due to economic shifts that have reduced the growth in demand for power and steel. By gradually reducing coal capacity today, the government figures it can forestall the financial damage that a glut would create over time.

Their different starting points help to explain why China and the U.S. now appear to be headed in opposite directions after years of climate-change cooperation. While China’s commitment under the Paris accords generally aligns with its broader aim to restructure the economy, the Trump administration sees curbs on coal as a growth impediment.

Beijing sees employment as a tenet of social stability, and is aiming to find work for the more than a million coal workers it says could be laid off as part of the coal cuts. But overriding those concerns is a desire to ease overcapacity, said Rosealea Yao, an analyst at research house Gavekal Dragonomics.

“It’s very important to systemic financial stability,” she said. “I don’t really think maintaining employment is their top priority.”

And Beijing says it believes wind and solar power can drive job growth. China’s National Energy Administration says it wants to create 13 million jobs by 2020 from renewable-energy investment.

In its latest annual work report, the Chinese government said it would reduce coal-production capacity by 150 million metric tons this year, after a 290 million ton cut in 2016.

China is seizing an opportunity to position itself as the more responsible global power. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, President Xi Jinping endorsed the Paris agreement, calling on countries to “stick to it instead of walking away from it.”

That same month, state media cited special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua as saying that Beijing is capable of taking a “leadership role” on the issue.

“The Chinese commitment is quite clear,” said Li Shuo, climate policy adviser with Greenpeace East Asia. “I am not seeing business as usual and China playing a ‘wait and see’ game. I’m seeing them take actions.”

Still, Mr. Li says China—and other nations—are likely to refrain from directly provoking the U.S. administration. He said that the July G-20 assembly in Hamburg will be a good moment for raising the issue. At last year’s gathering in Hangzhou, leaders affirmed their governments’ commitment to the Paris Agreement.

“If it’s difficult to confront the U.S. in this field, there could be safety in numbers,” he said.


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