China and US sign global climate change pact

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The U.S. and China are major emitters of carbon

Donald Trump has hailed the signing of a climate pact in China as a “major milestone” – as expected.

China and the United States – the two top emitters of carbon – signed a joint pledge on Friday.

They vowed to strengthen cooperation and negotiate a global climate change pact by 2030.

President Trump said in a tweet that the deal would help the US “become the clean energy superpower of the 21st century”.

“We will form a very powerful environmental team,” Mr Trump said in the message on Friday.

“Looking forward to my trip to China” he added.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption The two countries’ leaders have been keen to avoid direct conflict

Separately, Trump officials were due to travel to Beijing for trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday.

Officials from the two nations have been in formal talks for a year, but the disputes over trade have weighed on the relationship.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said the pact signed on Friday between Mr Xi and U.S. President Donald Trump would “build a new model for international relations… driven by win-win cooperation and win-now solutions”.

“The overall goal is to serve as a blueprint for future interdependent partnerships,” Xinhua reported.

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It adds that both countries will “encourage their companies to enhance cooperation in green and low-carbon economy, promote a new generation of green technologies, build a green industrial ecosystem and come together to build a green future of China and the United States”.

Asked about the carbon pact, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We’re, of course, pleased and gratified to see this signing of our commitment to continue to reduce emissions on both sides.”

European countries may also sign an agreement with China in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Reuters news agency reported.

‘Focus on US’

The deal was expected to be finalised by end of June, but there was opposition from China’s environmental authorities, the New York Times reported.

State environmental officials had raised concerns about giving China too much of a green “ambassadorship”, and also how the Trump administration’s domestic climate policies could affect China’s own effort to improve the environment, it said.

There have also been protests from environmental groups, the BBC’s Louise Osborne reports from Beijing.

“This comes as very cold comfort to those who are very worried about the outcome of climate change negotiations with the U.S., which had earlier been seen as a leading climate negotiator in the world,” says Kenneth Thorpe, global climate expert at Chatham House.

Mr Thorpe says the deal was more an acknowledgement by both sides that the “solutions are all Europe” and that Washington was no longer seen as an essential partner.

However, Europe’s minister for the environment, Karmenu Vella, said: “This agreement paves the way for us, for the United States, and for the rest of the world. We are now together on climate change.”

Image copyright EPA Image caption The agreement was spearheaded by Xi Jinping, and included reports of arson attacks in the US

In the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times, one front-page headline said: “Joint climate push sheds light on America’s significance.”

The paper quoted an unnamed researcher as saying: “America has reached a consensus over climate change, as the carbon economy is no longer about energy security.”

The international coalition built around US President Barack Obama’s presidency may not work now, says Helen Dixon, founder of Direct Action Hub.

“The rift between the U.S. and the EU is so big I can’t imagine them being able to resurrect that cooperation, and some of the other principles, by 2020,” she told the BBC.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Pressure from California and other states also may have helped Mr Trump to agree a deal.

“But in a practical sense, this may not have happened without pressure from California and other states.”

Environmental campaigners had hoped China and the U.S. could repair relations between themselves, with concerns that the decarbonisation that has taken place under the Obama administration may stall under President Trump.

But others say U.S. politicians may have simply been pushed to adopt China’s stance.

“This is not going to improve anything in the relationship between Beijing and Washington, not if Trump wants to get out of the NAFTA renegotiations,” said Helen Dixon, founder of Direct Action Hub.

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