Chinese President Xi Jinping urged climate change skeptic Donald Trump to keep the U.S. in the “hard won” Paris agreement during a Davos speech that touted the world’s largest polluter as a leader in the fight against global warming.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, Xi said “all signatories must stick to” the 2015 Paris deal to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius. “Walking away” from the pact would endanger future generations, he said.
While Trump has threatened to reverse President Obama policies on tackling climate change and pull the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris accord, China is strengthening its commitment to the issue. Earlier this month, it pledged to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($360 billion) in renewable energy through 2020 to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Xi said China’s green development investments were already “paying off” and urged other countries to support international cooperation to solve the world’s most urgent challenges.
“We should join hands and rise to the challenge,” he said. “Let us boost confidence, take actions and work together for a bright future.”
China’s government has suspended 101 coal-power projects across 11 provinces as it moves toward cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The deferred investments are worth about 430 billion yuan ($63 billion), China’s financial daily Caixin reported Tuesday.
“If the U.S. does step back from leadership in the climate process then China will step forward, not least for pure realpolitik reasons,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “If you’ve got large parts of the world including all of Africa, really hungry for investment and energy solutions, then the U.S. is seen as an unreliable partner, or trying to push dirty solutions, then I think China will step into that breach.”
China already leads in renewable energy investment, spending almost $88 billion in 2016, one-third more than the U.S. according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China’s investment has already created 3.5 million renewable energy jobs and that’s expected to grow to 13 million by 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
It’s not just rising global temperatures and sea levels concerning China. The nation’s increasingly wealthy middle class is worried about the quality of air it breathes and water it drinks and has become more vocal about complaints. With Beijing again cloaked in smog at the start of the year, Xi faces continued pressure to show he’s doing what it takes to clean things up.
Xi’s comments on climate change will help reassure clean energy investors at a time when the future of the U.S.’s own renewables market in doubt, said Li Shuo, policy adviser at Greenpeace East Asia.
“The U.S. political situation provides an external driver for China to go forward from being a reluctant leader to climate hero,” he said in a phone interview.