BEIJING (AP) — China said Thursday that it will work with the European Union to uphold the international agreement on climate change even if the U.S. pulls out.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce his decision on whether to abandon the Paris climate accord Thursday afternoon U.S. time (3 p.m. EDT; 1900 GMT).
While not mentioning the U.S. by name, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that climate change is a “global challenge” that no country can ignore.
“No matter whether other countries’ positions may change, we will continue to uphold” a model of sustainable development, Hua said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
China is the top emitter of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and the United States is second. Both were key to reaching an agreement at Paris in 2015, which came into force in November and aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times.
Trump claimed before taking office that climate change was a “hoax” created by China to hurt the U.S. economy, an assertion that stands in defiance of broad scientific consensus.
In March, he signed an executive order to roll back Obama-era policies regulating carbon emissions. Trump said he wanted to create more coal mining jobs, though industry analysts say demand is likely to decline as the price of solar, wind and other alternatives falls.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will discuss the Paris agreement in talks with EU leaders in Brussels on Friday.
“We wish to work with the EU to strengthen our communication and practical cooperation in climate change,” Hua said.
Asked what kind of exchanges Beijing’s leaders have had with Trump regarding his decision, Hua said China and the United States “have maintained close communications at various levels” on subjects including climate change.
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 were more explicit in expressing their fears that the U.S. government may 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.”
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.
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.
David Rising contributed from Berlin, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Gregory Katz in London, and Gerry Shih in Beijing.