Without America, Paris Agreement Can Still Make Progress

On June 1, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would announce his decision regarding the Paris climate agreement, which would “Make America great again.” According to American media sources, Trump has decided to leave the Paris climate accord; this decision has ignited many international opinions.* In response to this news, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “[Trump] wants a fair deal for the American people.”

After June 1, a serious uneasiness spread quickly around the world. United Nations Secretary- General Antonio Guterres stated that he hopes American cities, states and corporations will continue to join the U.N.-led agreement, despite the withdrawal of their government.

Almost every analysis says America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement will harm the accord. Considering America’s special influence in the world and the fact that it emits the second most amount of greenhouse gases, such an action will not only lead to the failure of emission reduction, but also create a bad role model for other countries. From now on, some countries will be able to use America’s action as an excuse for their own failure to achieve the agreement’s goals. This outcome is unavoidable.

Other than Syria and Nicaragua, every country in the world has signed the Paris climate agreement. If America does leave, it will be part of a minority. Such a negative influence on one’s reputation may be hard to bear for many countries, but Trump’s government does not seem to care; maybe America’s overall strength has given it such a sense of waywardness.

The world is still politically divided, and the U.N.’s actual power is still very weak. In such a situation, people can still come together to face the problem and come up with a regulatory global climate agreement; this represents a vulnerable but precious, positive trend. Once America leaves the Paris climate agreement, its departure will have a violent impact on such trend. Washington will provide the power to lead the world backward.

America is currently the most advanced country in the world, and American citizens have enjoyed benefits greater than those available to the world’s average citizens. Although there are poor and unemployed people in America, those problems exist because of America’s domestic politics. Searching international politics to find reasons for America’s internal problems should not be the behavior of the greatest economy in the world.

If the American government decides to be reckless, it will be at great cost to its diplomatic resources. This decision will clearly demonstrate America’s selfishness and irresponsibility to the world, reducing the global leadership many Americans care about.

There are costs to America for exhibiting leadership in the world, but those costs eventually become America’s gains. The American government now hopes for zero costs, but many returns; this goes against the fundamental logic of international relations.

After the news spread about America leaving the Paris climate agreement, China’s subsequent attitude and actions became the center of public opinion. While on a state visit to Germany, China’s premier, Li Keqiang, stated that China will adhere to the promises it made in the agreement to reach the 2030 goal. To the world, this is an important comfort.

We believe that as long as China and the European Union fulfill the Paris climate agreement, the U.N.’s Climate Action Programme will not fall apart. The combination of the Chinese and EU economies is much greater than that of the United States. As the Chinese and EU economies advance in the low-carbon direction, their collective influence will be greater than whatever else the U.S. is causing.

A low-carbon economy is not only a regulation imposed on development methods, but also a future that includes innovation and hope. It echoes China’s goal to create an eco-friendly environment; the well-being of the human race and of China are not mutually exclusive. China has the foundation to fulfill its responsibility of reducing emissions.

The attitude toward the Paris climate agreement is not one about regional politics. China does not need to cater to the talks about leadership on climate change. Regardless of how the United States sees the Paris climate agreement, China should achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. China should not depend on its surroundings to prevent avoidable losses.

*Editor’s note: This opinion was published prior to President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, but the perspective remains relevant.

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