Wed | Aug 23, 2017

World leaders reaffirm commitment to fighting climate change

Published:Friday | June 2, 2017 | 6:00 AM
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and China's Premier Li Keqiang joke prior to a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 31.

World leaders pledged Thursday to keep up the fight against global warming and urged Donald Trump to be part of that effort, hours before the United States president was due to announce his position on the Paris climate accord.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, speaking to reporters during a visit to Berlin, said fighting global warming was a "global consensus" and an "international responsibility".

Without mentioning the US specifically, Li said that "China, in recent years, has stayed true to its commitment" and pointed out that his was one of the first countries to ratify the 2015 Paris Agreement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has in the past even been dubbed the 'climate chancellor' for her efforts to fight global warming, welcomed Li's remarks at their joint press conference.

Other European leaders issued more explicit appeals to the US government not to abandon international measures against climate change. "Please don't change the (political) climate for the worse," European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the United Kingdom would continue to press the US to reduce dangerous emissions even if Trump pulls out.

Johnson told Sky News that Britain still wants the US to take the lead in fighting climate change and called on individual US states to keep making progress on that front.

"We will continue to lobby the Americans and the White House to show the leadership they have shown in the past on reducing CO2," he said.

Abandoning the pact would isolate the US from a raft of international allies, who spent years negotiating the 2015 agreement to fight global warming and pollution by reducing carbon emissions.

While travelling abroad last week, Trump was repeatedly pressed to stay in the deal by European leaders and Pope Francis. Withdrawing would leave the United States as one of just three countries outside the agreement. The other two are Syria and Nicaragua.

Russia joined the chorus speaking out in favour of the climate accord. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia "thinks highly" of the accord and sees no alternative to it. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that its implementation will not be as effective "without the key signatories".

During a trip to Europe this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed India's commitment to fighting climate change and said it would be a "crime" to spoil the environment for future generations.

Economic advantage

Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament president who is hoping to unseat Merkel in Germany's upcoming general election, said he hoped Trump would think better of withdrawing from the accord. If the US does leave, he said, the Europe Union should seek ways to balance out the economic advantage that US companies might have from the absence of climate regulations.

"Those who want to export their goods and services to our market also have to accept our standards," he said.

Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner if the US retreats from its pledge because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could release up to three billion additional tons of carbon dioxide a year enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday said that it was the "duty of Europe" to stand up to the US if Donald Trump decides to pull his country out of the Paris climate change accord.

"The Americans can't just get out of the agreement," he said, adding that "it takes three to four years" to pull out.

Juncker went on to say that the Group of Seven leaders "tried to explain this in clear simple sentences to Mr Trump" at a recent summit in Italy, and that even though "it looks like that attempt failed ... the law is the law".

In a jibe at the US administration, Juncker told the audience at an event of the Confederation of German Employers in Berlin that "not everything that is written in international agreements is fake news".

Trump officially announced the US was pulling out of the climate accord on Thursday afternoon.

- AP