Chinese President Xi Jinping took to the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to defend an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.
Xi, who runs the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting country, called maintaining the agreement “a responsibility for future generations,” according to The Wall Street Journal, taking a clear shot at U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s stated intention to pull out of the so-called Paris accords.
Xi also defended “globalization” against emerging backlash in the U.S. and Britain, and the Chinese leader said there would be no “winner” if Trump went ahead with his policy of high tariffs on imported goods.
The irony didn’t go unnoticed.
Observers noted the weird reality of Communist China calling for free trade while Trump, the leader of the free world, is pushing for protectionism.
The same can be said for Xi’s call to preserve the Paris accords. China is the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gases scientists, gases that scientists say warm the climate, and the country is set to emit even more if it carries out plans to ramp up coal production.
On the other hand, U.S. emissions have fallen drastically in recent years, largely due to power plants switching from burning coal to natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing and stricter federal regulations brought emissions in the first half of 2016 to their lowest levels since 1991.
Trump promised to withdraw from the Paris accords on the campaign trail and “cancel” funding for United Nations global warming programs — spending promised developing countries to forgo fossil fuels.
“We’re gonna work on our own environment,” Trump said in November. “That includes repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike in Lake Okeechobee, protecting the Florida Everglades.”
President Obama jointly ratified the Paris accords with Xi in 2016, without getting Senate approval. Obama committed the U.S. to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
But Obama’s climate pledge can be undone by Trump. The Obama administration avoided calling the Paris accords a “treaty” to keep it from being shot down by a Republican-controlled Senate.
Instead, it’s defined by the White House as an executive agreement, which Trump can nullify.
Republicans attacked the deal for committing the U.S. to costly emissions cuts while allowing China and other developing countries to increase their emissions.
China promised to “peak” emissions by 2030, and its communist government has plans to increase its coal capacity up to 20 percent. Energy experts project the world will be using more coal in the coming decades.
Not everyone in Trump’s cabinet wants to pull out of the Paris accords.
Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, told lawmakers last week he supported the accords, but it’s unclear how much sway the Texas oil man will have over the president-elect on this issue.
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