Having failed to win over Trump on environmental arguments, they now are ominously warning that a U.S. withdrawal will open a void in international leadership that China will fill. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday at the WDR Europaforum that he warned Trump of this during a summit of the world’s major industrial countries in Taormina, Italy.
“It looks like the folks who are so desperate for Trump to sign keep confusing words with deeds.”
“We explained to Mr. Trump in Taormina that it would not be good for the world or the United States if America was to literally step off the world stage, because the vacuum will be filled, and the Chinese are in prime position to take on a leadership role,” he said.
Trump will formally announce his decision on Thursday.
Edward Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt under President Bill Clinton, made the same argument on CNN.
“The Chinese have made it very clear that they’re trying to take over leadership at a minimum of the Asian area and probably farther than that,” he said. “Our walking away from the Asia-Pacific trade agreement, and our walking away from the climate agreement, which China has committed to continue as a leader, is handing the process over to China, and it’s destroying our Asian diplomacy.”
The European Union’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, told the Guardian: “The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy.”
China appears eager to be seen as a global leader. Its prime minister, Li Keqiang, got a warm reception in Europe this week. And Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Paris accords.
“Climate change is a global challenge,” she said in a statement. “No country can develop outside this issue.”
But China is an odd choice to lead the world on climate change. It is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rapid rate. Under the Paris accord, it committed to stop the growth of its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But a study by a climate policy consultant at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences indicated that a steep drop in coal consumption in 2015 may have allowed China to achieve that goal already.
China also has not exactly been transparent about its pollution. In late 2015, just before the Paris summit, the Chinese government acknowledged that it had been underreporting how much coal it had been burning by up to 17 percent a year. That means that the country was releasing almost a billion more tons of carbon dioxide a year — more than the entire German economy’s annual emissions from fossil fuels.
“It looks like the folks who are so desperate for Trump to sign keep confusing words with deeds,” said Alan Tonelson, an economic policy analyst who blogs at RealityCheck.
Tonelson said that people warning that America is ceding its global leadership role never explain exactly what the United States risks giving up.
“My view has long been that the value of global leadership to the United States is greatly overrated,” he said. “Global leadership is a nice-sounding slogan.”
Tonelson said reversing a massive trade imbalance with China’s much dirtier industry would do more for the global environment than the Paris deal.
“Nothing would be more effective than basically kneecapping China’s export machine,” he said.