Trump win opens way for China to take climate leadership role

Valerie Volcovici and Sue-Lin Wong Reuters 11 Nov 16;

The election of climate change skeptic Donald Trump as president is likely to end the U.S. leadership role in the international fight against global warming and may lead to the emergence of a new and unlikely champion: China.

China worked closely with the administration of outgoing President Barack Obama to build momentum ahead of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The partnership of the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters helped get nearly 200 countries to support the pact at the historic meet in France's capital.

By contrast, Trump has called global warming a hoax created by China to give it an economic advantage and said he plans to remove the United States from the historic climate agreement, as well as reverse many of Obama's measures to combat climate change.

He has appointed noted climate change skeptic Myron Ebell to help lead transition planning for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has crafted the administration’s major environmental regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

Beijing is poised to cash in on the goodwill it could earn by taking on leadership in dealing with what for many other governments is one of the most urgent issues on their agenda.

"Proactively taking action against climate change will improve China's international image and allow it to occupy the moral high ground," Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and a senior Chinese climate talks negotiator, told Reuters.

Zou said that if Trump abandons efforts to implement the Paris agreement, "China's influence and voice are likely to increase in global climate governance, which will then spill over into other areas of global governance and increase China's global standing, power and leadership."

Chen Zhihua, a representative of the Chinese delegation and official in the climate change division of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's economic planning agency, said Chinese and other countries' efforts will not change if the United States withdraws from the agreement.

“Action by the international community will not stop because of the new government of the United States. We still have confidence the international community will join hands and continue our efforts on climate change,” he told reporters at the 200-nation U.N. meeting being held in Marrakesh to start fleshing out the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement seeks to phase out net greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century and limit global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Each country has put forward national plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Some have raised concerns that without involvement and financial support from the United States, emerging economies like India may feel inclined to back out.

One of the key advisors to Obama's team on climate change said he hoped China would take on the mantle and keep the global climate deal alive.

Beijing should "continue to work in the spirit that we worked together in and before Paris," said Andrew Light, former senior adviser to previous U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern.

CHANGING ROLE

It is an ironic twist for the government of the world's second-largest economy. For years, Beijing fought attempts by foreign governments to limit carbon emissions, claiming it should be allowed the same space to develop and pollute that industrialized nations had.

But with its capital often choked by smog and its people angry about the environmental devastation that rapid development has wrought across the country, Beijing has become a proponent of efforts to halt global warming rather than a hindrance.

"China is acting on climate for the benefit of its own people," said Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN Environment Programme.

"I am confident China will take a lead role."

China has powerful domestic and global imperatives to play a high-profile role in continued global climate change talks, meant to avert more heat waves, droughts, floods and rising sea levels that could cause trillions of dollars of damage by 2100.

China sees a perceived role as global climate leader as way to bolster its aspiration to become a "clean energy superpower" by leading in renewable energy technology such as wind and solar power and asserting itself as a key geopolitical power.

Dealing with the pressures of continued urbanization in some of the world's largest cities has already put China ahead, said Andrew Steer, the president of environmental think tank the World Resources Institute.

Beijing is innovating to build low-carbon cities, he said.

"It sees carbon as an indicator of economic inefficiency," Steer said.

Trump's victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton darkened the mood of delegates attending the current round of climate talks in Marrakesh.

Some delegates at the talks say that China is already setting an example.

"China is surprising us daily. Whatever they've promised they're delivering," said Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, of Democratic Republic of Congo, who heads the 48-nation group of least developed countries at the talks.

(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Marrakesh, Laurie Goering of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Simon Webb, Stuart Grudgings and Meredith Mazzilli)


Trump victory may embolden other nations to obstruct Paris climate deal

EU concerns are growing that some oil-rich nations that have not yet ratified the deal could now try and slow action on reducing emissions
Arthur Neslen and Adam Vaughan The Guardian 11 Nov 16;

Concerns are mounting that Donald Trump’s victory could embolden some fossil fuel-rich countries to try unpicking the historic Paris climate agreement, which came into force last week.

Saudi Arabia has tried to obstruct informal meetings at the UN climate summit in Marrakech this week, and worries are rife that states which have not yet ratified the agreement could seek to slow action on carbon emissions. Trump has called global warming a hoax and promised to withdraw the US from the Paris accord.

An EU source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Of course this is a factor if not a fear – that where climate policies are concerned, Trump’s victory will probably make some parties feel empowered to start trying to reopen what has been agreed. If the US withdraws or starts demanding renegotiations, it is a possibility that some of the other parties will wake up and say ‘We have some pieces that we want to renegotiate as well’.”

Officials in Brussels and Washington stress that the Paris agreement’s entry into force in 2016 – four years earlier than required under the treaty – shows a rapid and ongoing momentum.


The vast majority of the 105 states that have ratified the Paris accord remain firmly committed to the legal framework and certainty it gives clean energy investors.

But Trump’s win spurred the EU president Jean-Claude Juncker to call for an urgent clarification by the president elect of the new US climate position.

“We must know what climate policies he intends to pursue,” Juncker said in a speech in Berlin on Thursday. “This must be cleared up in the next few months.”

Some NGOs said that the potential ending of the US-China alliance that pushed through a deal in Paris has already spurred Saudi Arabia to step up disruptive efforts in talks.

Safa al-Jayoussi, Climate Action Network’s Arab world co-coordinator, said that officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other states had expressed relief at Trump’s victory because of his support for fossil fuels in his 100 days plan.

“Those countries trying to put obstacles in the way of Paris can now take advantage of the political instability caused by Trump’s election,” she said. “I think that some states which signed the Paris agreement because of all the international pressure will now use the US election as an excuse to put obstacles in the way of a transparent agreement. They are doing that in informal meetings.”

In one working group on the Paris agreement the day that Trump was elected, Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, tried to block plans for a review towards mid-century of climate goals.

The Saudi delegation also reportedly objected to language about the gender dimension of climate change and the integration of the UN’s human rights convention into the Paris text. Saudi Arabia is one of the 100-plus countries that has ratified the agreement.

“They are using all the tools at their disposal just to try to seed a bit of discontent everywhere, which is frankly a bit pathetic,” said Liz Gallagher, a senior associate at the environmental thinktank E3G. “They can use procedures as much as they like, but the parties will still talk about it, just not with the Saudis.”

While Russia is also a part of the “awkward squad” on climate issues – frequently raising unpredictable last-minute demands – these were usually more manageable within the UN talks process, Gallagher added.

Signals from Beijing suggest no lessening of resolve from a country wildly accused by Trump of inventing the climate change concept to make US manufacturing industry uncompetitive.

“There will be a distinction between campaign policies and real policies,” Chinese negotiator Gu Zihua told the Associated Press. “We should still wait and see what kind of measures the US will take on climate change.”

Energy experts in the UK said Trump’s win would likely be damaging for international efforts to reduce carbon emissions from energy, unless he changed direction.

Sir Edward Davey, who was the UK’s energy and climate secretary from 2012-15, told the Guardian: “The signal of Trump for climate and energy policy internationally is about as bad as it could get. But we will need to wait to see what the reality is. The fact the Paris agreement has come into force does constrain what Trump can actually do.

“Markets and technologies are also going far faster than governments and international agreements, and the states across the US will be able to take advantage of the cheap clean energy. So the size of the disaster is at least contained but there’s no getting away from it, it’s pretty awful.”

Davey, who is now chairman of green power firm Mongoose Energy, called on Theresa May to urge Trump to consult with allies before the US pulls out of any UN agreements.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK which represents the UK’s Big Six energy companies, said: “The Marrakech climate talks are going on right now. A Trump administration can fly in the face of the whole world or they can sit down and work with us. It makes good plain logic sense to decarbonise.”

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