World leaders reaffirm commitment to fighting climate change

World Today

FILE – In this Jan. 20, 2015 file photo, a plume of steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H. President Donald Trump may abandon U.S. pledges to reduce carbon emissions, but global economic realities ensure he is unlikely to reverse the accelerating push to adopt cleaner forms of energy. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

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 U.S. president was due to announce whether he would pull out of the Paris climate accord.

Trump said on Twitter late Wednesday he will announce his decision on whether to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord during a Rose Garden event Thursday afternoon (3 p.m. Easterm; 1900 GMT).

The Paris accord was negotiated by President Barack Obama in 2015. A White House official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Trump is expected to withdraw from the deal, though aides cautioned he had not yet made a final decision.

Trump, a Republican who has claimed global warming is a hoax, has moved quickly since taking office to delay or block restrictions on burning of fossil fuels enacted by his predecessor that he claims are holding back economic growth. The president has pledged to reverse decades of decline in coal mining, which now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs.

The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, a gas that stays in the air for 100 years and about one-fifth of what’s accumulated in the atmosphere over the last century came from the United States, more than any other country.

Reports of the impending move by the American president triggered statements of support for the climate accord from scores of world leaders. At a meeting of the G7 in Sicily last week, only Trump refused to reaffirm their nations’ continuing support for the Paris deal, which was signed by nearly 200 countries.

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

“China will stand by its responsibilities on climate change,” Li told reporters in Berlin, according to a German translation, adding it was standing by its international responsibilities and also setting national targets.

At a Chinese Foreign Ministry Press Conference, Spokesperson Hua Chunying said that China will take concrete measures domestically to step up actions to counter climate change and will faithfully fulfill the Paris Agreement, which is also in line with China’s own sustainable development.

“Climate change is a global challenge, and no country can stay out,” Hua said.

She added that outcome of the Paris Agreement was difficult to get to, but that it unified the broadest consensus of the international community and defining the direction and objectives of further efforts for global cooperation in addressing climate change processes.

“China will continue to carry out innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, regardless of how other countries’ positions are changing,” the Spokesperson added.

The Chinese government canceled construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants earlier this year, announcing plans to invest at least $360 billion in green-energy projects by 2020. It is a building boom expected to create an estimated 13 million jobs.

Though it remains the largest global carbon emitter, China also leads the world in total installed solar and wind capacity. China generates about 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, compared to about 13 percent in the U.S.

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.

FILE – In this Oct. 4, 2016 file photo wind turbines spin near Leipzig, central Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. World leaders affirmed their commitment Thursday, June 1, 2017 to combating climate change ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on whether he would pull out of the Paris climate accord. Trump is expected to announce his decision on Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader,file)

On April 30, Germany established a new national record for renewable energy use with 85 percent of all electricity produced in the county coming from renewable sources. That same month, Scotland was able to produce an electricity surplus from its wind turbines, producing 136 percent of the energy needed for its 3.3 million households.

Other European leaders issued more explicit appeals to the U.S. 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 Britain would continue to press the U.S. to reduce dangerous emissions even if Trump pulls out.

Johnson told Sky News that Britain still wants the U.S. to take the lead in fighting climate change and called on individual U.S. 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 U.S. from a raft of international allies who spent years negotiating the 2015 agreement to fight global warming and pollution by reducing carbon emissions.

While traveling 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 favor of the climate accord. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia “thinks highly” of the accords and sees no alternative to it. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov added that its implementation will not be as effective “without the key signatories.”

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, enter a hall for their talks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 1, 2017. Modi’s visit to Russia comes amid he and other world leaders expressed commitment to fighting climate change after U.S. President Donald Trump indicated that the U.S. might pull out of the Paris climate accords. (Sergei Savostyanov/TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

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.

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 U.S. does leave, he said, the Europe Union should seek ways to balance out the economic advantage that U.S. 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 U.S. retreats from its pledge because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could release up to 3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide a year — enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

Story by the Associated Press with information from Reuters and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.