Saturday, November 19, 2016

China Steps Reluctantly into Spotlight as U.S. Heads for Exit

President Obama (right) walks away after shaking hands with China's president, Xi Jinping, before the opening of the Group of 20 Summit in China's Zhejiang province in September. As Obama walks off the world stage in January, leaving a possibly broken climate change legacy behind him, many wonder what role China will play in filling the U.S. void. (Credit: AP Images) Click to Enlarge.
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has the world holding out for a climate hero, and parties here [in Marrakech were] determined that it be China.

The world's largest greenhouse gas emitter and second-largest economy is not backing away from the challenge — or the Paris Agreement, as Trump has vowed to do.

Xie Zhenhua, China's top special envoy, reiterated yesterday that his country's stance on the climate deal will "remain the same and unchanged," no matter what the world's other economic superpower chooses to do.

"China will fulfill and honor its commitments to the Paris Agreement," he said.

That [was] the Chinese message throughout the U.N. conference that concluded Friday in this imperial desert town.  Participants here, still reeling from last week's news that the United States has elected a president who plans to cancel or renegotiate Paris, have warned that China's steadfastness will place America at a competitive advantage economically and politically if Trump doesn't recant.

"One of the risks that I think the Trump administration needs to consider is the risk that China will become a global leader in this new technology, which is market-driven, and the Americans will be left behind," said Leon Charles, a former veteran negotiator from Grenada.

"I can't imagine a scenario where U.S. companies are not in that game," echoed U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing.  The U.S. delegation has taken to answering all questions about Trump's Paris stance by presenting climate action as an economic boon.

Some say a pullout will undermine U.S. influence
A look at China's recent progress on climate and energy shows that China has indeed made strides in both — policies its officials here say are in the country's own national interest.

Data from the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) show China bringing renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment online at record speed, a fact IEA energy head Dave Turk said has helped to "move the needle" on global deployment of these technologies.

IEA's World Energy Investment report shows that China was the largest destination of renewable-based power capacity investment in the world last year, reaching more than $90 billion, or over 60 percent of its total investment in generation.

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