China offers to talk on climate with U.S. as Trump seeks exit

China led developing nations in calling on the U.S. to stick with the Paris agreement on climate change, saying it’s willing to discuss policies that President Donald Trump has said he will scrap.

The biggest developing economy along with South Africa, Brazil and India made a statement through their Basic negotiating group signaling their concerns that Trump’s comments on climate are unsettling the international fight against global warming.

“We will have to further see changes in the U.S. domestic policies” that may affect the efforts to cut greenhouse-gas pollution, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative on climate change, told reporters at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. “There are still some degrees of uncertainties in international policies” of the U.S.

Trump has called global warming a hoax invented by China to restrain the U.S. economy and named officials to his cabinet who will work to slash restrictions on fossil fuels. The moves threaten to upend the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change backed by more than 190 nations including the U.S. and China.

The U.S. policy shifting is “a major concern especially for us as a developing country,” said Barbara Thompson, deputy minister of environmental affairs in South Africa. There’re different views within the new administration over the Paris agreement, “but at this stage, we cannot preempt their internal discussion or even send any political message.”

Basic countries “need to stand firm and reiterate our own firm commitment to the multilateral process that may have some influence in their domestic politics,” she said at the briefing.

Trump vowed during the presidential campaign to scrap U.S. involvement in the Paris deal but has sidestepped the issue since taking office in January. The White House has said it will decide by May its stance toward the pact.

A U.S. withdraw would damage the deal, since it’s the richest polluting nation. As part of the talks that have spanned more than two decades, industrial nations have pledged to help their less developed counterparts to fund measures that will move the world away from fossil fuels.

“If a country or countries can’t meet commitment, this may bring more pressure to others,” Xie said.

Ministers from Basic countries urged all signatories of Paris the agreement to stay on course and maintain their support, according to a joint statement distributed to reporters on Tuesday after a ministerial meeting in Beijing.

China plans to cut carbon emissions per unit of economic growth by 18 percent by 2020 from the 2015 level. China has made the target binding and will exceed what it pledged to counter climate change by 2020, said Xie.

“Global effort against climate change is an irreversible process that cannot be postponed,” according to the statement, which also underscores the need for entering into the textual negotiation on the procedures and guidelines for the Paris agreement as soon as possible.

Ministers also urged developed nations to honor their commitments and raise climate finance toward the $100 billion a year goal, to be scaled up significantly after 2025, Basic countries said.

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