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EU, China ‘Stepping Up Cooperation’ On Climate After Trump's Paris Deal Pullout

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk at the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy on May 26.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the European Union and China were increasing cooperation to fight climate change following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate deal.

“We are convinced that yesterday's decision by the United States to leave the Paris agreement is a big mistake,” Tusk said on June 2 following a EU-China summit in Brussels.

“The fight against climate change, and all the research, innovation, and technological progress it will bring, will continue, with or without the United States," said Tusk, standing alongside Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

In their meeting, the EU and Chinese leaders committed to cutting back on fossil fuels and developing more green technology, reports said. But the sides failed to formally endorse a final communique due to a dispute about trade ties.

Tusk’s remarks added to a wave of international condemnation of Trump's move, with U.S. allies and rivals alike decrying his decision.

Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal in an address at the White House on June 1, saying the accord "punished" the United States and would cost millions of American jobs.

He added that he was ready to negotiate a new agreement or reenter the accord on improved terms.

The Paris accord committed 188 states to keeping rising global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and "endeavor to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius above those levels.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (file photo)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (file photo)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's spokesman said it is "a major disappointment" that the United States was leaving the agreement.

China's government, which even before Trump's decision had pledged to work with European nations to recommit to the climate accord, called the U.S. withdrawal a "global setback," according to state news agency Xinhua.

In a statement to the parliament in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the move "very regrettable," and said nothing would stop those who supported the accord.

Merkel pledged her country's continued commitment to the 2015 agreement, calling it a "cornerstone" of attempts to protect international efforts to fight global warming.

"There is no plan B because there is no planet B," French President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address. "We will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. There is no way."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he "would not judge" the U.S. president for quitting the Paris accord and called for a constructive dialogue on efforts needed to curb global warming.

“It seems to me that now is not the time to make noise about it, but rather to create conditions for joint work," Putin told an economic forum in St. Petersburg.

Putin also said the Paris deal was a good document, but that Moscow had not ratified it because it was waiting for technical details to be settled.

Meanwhile, Indian Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government was committed to the Paris climate accord "irrespective of the stand of anyone, anywhere in the world."

At home in the United States, Trump got a mixed reaction, with Republicans in Congress praising his boldness and rejecting what they called a "raw deal" for the United States.

But Democrats deplored his move as a "tragedy for the environment" and an "abdication of leadership" on the world stage.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, who agreed to the Paris accord, criticized the decision, accusing his successor's administration of "rejecting the future."

The Paris document says that a country seeking to leave the pact can only give notice three years after the date it entered into force -- November 16, 2016 for the United States.

The process of departing the agreement then lasts for another year, meaning it would not be finalized until just weeks after the U.S. presidential election in 2020.

In explaining his decision to walk away from the agreement, Trump said the Paris accord would undermine the U.S. economy, cost U.S. jobs, weaken American national sovereignty, and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.

"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he also proclaimed.

But he got blow back even from the mayor of Pittsburgh, which during the 20th century made its mark as a major producer of steel but today prides itself as a "green" city that is committed to environmental and technological progress.

"Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow the Paris Agreement," the city's mayor, Bill Peduto, tweeted.

In a television interview, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s decision, saying the Paris deal "really put an extraordinary burden on the economy.”

"It was a transfer of wealth from the most powerful economy in the world to other countries around the planet," he said.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed the impact of Trump's move, saying the United States will pursue its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“The United States has a terrific record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions," Tillerson told reporters. "That was done in the absence of a Paris agreement. I don't think we're going to change our ongoing efforts to reduce those emissions in the future.”

However, several major U.S. business leaders were adamant in criticizing the Trump administration's move.

"Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world," Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger said they would leave White House advisory councils after Trump's move.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP, BBC, RIA, and Interfax
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