By dumping the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump hands world leadership to China

  • Published on June 2nd, 2017

If the world can’t rely on the United States to be positively involved in the most existential crisis facing human society, when can the world rely on the USA?

By Zachary Shahan 

One of the first articles I published after the US presidential election in November was this one: “How China (+ Russia) Could Shift USA From #1 To #2 (Or Lower), Via Trump Naivety.”

From that article:

If you were a major power trying to diminish the USA’s role and grow your own, what is a better topic to take the high road on than one that is deeply moral, acknowledged to be a major concern of more than 190 countries, and priority numero uno for many of these nations?

In case you aren’t aware, Russia has long worked to weaken climate action. The statement above from Oleg Shamanov indicates to me that Russia sees this as a critical way to weaken the overall geopolitical power of the United States.

Russia, again, got its wish. And China, again, gets a big boost in the world of global economics and politics.

Joe Romm has had the best headline and subheading so far:

Trump’s reported exit from Paris climate deal signals end of the American Century

America’s time as leader of the free world is over. Now we’re the villain, thwarting the global effort to save humanity.

As leaders in Europe, China, India, and elsewhere come to realize the country that many of them idolized growing up has gone senile, how renewable energy jobs by countrydo you expect they will view the USA in any manner of important negotiations?

The world’s leading nations want other power nations they can trust at the table. They want to know that an alliance, an agreement, a contract can be trusted. They want to see strong signs over a period of time that their partners are reliable and genuine leaders.

We have over 1,200 articles in the China tag here on CleanTechnica. Going back to early ones in 2009, I find some telling article titles:

Indeed, while American journalists (even on MSNBC) continue to parrot the idiotic “jobs vs environment” narrative (even after cleantech industries and Obama demonstrably highlighted for years that this narrative didn’t make sense), China has had its eyes on the prize — and plenty long enough to become the dominant player in the solar panel manufacturing world. The bigger portion of cleantech trade China can take, the better for China, and the USA’s embarrassing move gives China the opportunity to gain a much bigger portion … but also much more.

When the United States pulls out of a climate agreement between nearly 200 nations — joining the side of Syria (which was/is engulfed in civil war) and Nicaragua (which wanted a much stronger agreement) — China is boosted with even more geopolitical momentum.

I think China very clearly saw the opportunity when Donald Trump continued to claim on the campaign trail that global warming was a “Chinese hoax.”

The argument made no sense — this societal threat is clearly a scientific reality concluded by all of the world’s top national science academies. But the laughable claim combined with the pot shot at China must have gotten the attention of Chinese leaders looking to gain more and more influence in global economic matters.

Indeed, in November, Beijing Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said that China would of course continue its climate action plans “whatever the circumstances.” He also took some strong swipes at Trump and modern-day Republicans:

If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the IPCC with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s.

Of course we’re still expecting developed countries including the United States will continue to take the lead on mitigating climate change.

Still expecting? Did you really expect Donald Trump and his pollution-pushing Republican colleagues would take the lead?

I would guess that the minister and his colleagues didn’t expect that, and I would guess putting USA in the dunce corner for the Republican Party’s lack of climate leadership has been heavily discussed in Chinese high politics.

As the world has grown more accustomed to the idiotic behavior and selfish stance of the USA under Trump, China’s punches are getting stronger and more obvious. The Washington Post has a good summary of how state-run or heavily state-influenced media has run with the story:

China’s nationalist state media isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. 

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord was a “huge setback” in the global battle against climate change, state news agency Xinhua said, and a retreat from the “common aspiration of mankind for a low-carbon future.”

But if there was regret, it was mixed with not a little gloating.

Citing environmentalists, Xinhua called Trump “reckless and foolish,” and said he was isolating the United States. China Daily denounced the “single action of just one man” that can change the course of the world, drawing a direct parallel with former president George W. Bush and decisions taken in the name of the war on terror. 

But the clearest denunciation came, as it often does, from nationalist tabloid Global Times, a state-owned paper whose editorials don’t represent official policy but do often represent a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.

 Hours before Trump made his announcement, it said America’s “selfishness and irresponsibility will be made clear to the world, crippling the country’s world leadership.”

Indeed, that’s just the Chinese media. How about the political leaders? Well, Premier Li Keqiang “will join with the European Union on Friday in a commitment to cut back on fossil fuels, develop more green technology and help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut their emissions, Reuters reported.” For sure, Chinese political leaders will be making some strong cleantech and climate plans and statements in the coming months — these will solidify China as the de facto parent in the room, alongside the other parent, Europe. (For the purposes of this metaphor, Russia is of course not part of Europe but is another adult outside the room who may be having an affair with China … or Europe … or both, but is definitely f****** the US.)

As a comment on that Washington Post article summarized perhaps best:

I’m sure this latest misstep will be very helpful when [Trump] inevitably seeks some form of cooperation from any of the other world leaders.  
 
What an idiot.

Another good comment: “This is what happens when a cartoon villain gets elected to the highest office.”

Getting back to the broader picture of China’s geopolitical gift — it’s not even a power grab at this point, as Trump is just handing over the power — a CNN report has a concise summary of key moments since November:

It’s been a good year for Chinese President Xi Jinping on the international stage.

He presided over a summit on his grand plan for the world economy, charmed the global elite at Davos and saw off the TPP, a huge trade deal that Beijing wasn’t part of.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump handed China the keys and an extra tank of gas — quitting the Paris climate accord and shifting leadership of global efforts to limit climate change to Asia.

“If you’re Xi Jinping, you probably could not have written a better script for how this year could go with Trump essentially retreating across the board on these issues,” says Christopher Balding, a professor of economics at Peking University.

“When there’s a vacuum, China will step forward and take that.”

And here’s a cutting statement doing just that: China will continue to fight global warming and climate change because it’s a “responsibility shouldered by China as a responsible major country,” Premier Li Keqiang said.

“A responsible major country.” The message couldn’t be more clear.

Here’s the CEO and Chairman of Disney’s response:

It’s that dramatic. And you better believe that China’s leaders realize that and much of the coming years and century will be shaped by this anti-science, anti-human US presidency and political party.


*Interestingly, that one quotes Michael Liebreich, “CEO of research firm New Energy Finance,” which is a bit of a flashback when you think now about Bloomberg New Energy Finance, what it became. For more on that flashback, see: “The History of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Michael Liebreich Interview Series).”

(Originally appeared at our sister-stie, Cleantechnica.)

 





About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.