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By Michael Bastasch
China and several other countries are badgering the Trump administration for answers on how they plan to fulfill former President Barack Obama’s pledge to cut emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement.
China asked the White House how the U.S. intends to meet Obama’s pledge after President Donald Trump rescinded emissions regulations on power plants and other directives, according to questions submitted to the United Nations.
“Given that President Trump is not supportive of President Obama’s Climate Actions plan, it is even more challenging to achieve the 17% emission reduction in 2020 purely through domestic actions,” China said.
“Does the U.S. have any plan or preliminary thoughts on using international market mechanism to accommodate recent changes? If still not, what additional measure will the U.S. consider to take to achieve the 2020 target?” China asked, according to the document.
Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union also submitted questions asking how the U.S. plans to meet Obama’s short-term pledge of cutting emissions 17 percent by 2020, according to InsideClimate News. The U.S. is supposed to answer the questions by the end of April.
Environmentalists have painted China as the new “leader” in the fight against global warming. Trump promised to ax Obama-era climate policies and pull out of the Paris agreement during his campaign.
China has embraced that role, urging other countries — most pointedly the U.S. — to stay party to the Paris agreement. The agreement went into effect in 2016 and relies on signatory countries making voluntary commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Obama pledged to cut U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. Trump signed an executive order to undo the Clean Power Plan, which Obama relied on to fulfill much of his pledge.
“The Paris Agreement is a hard-won achievement,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the World Economic Forum in January. “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”
But China has a good reason for pushing compliance with the Paris agreement — they don’t have to make any emissions cuts.
China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, and made no commitment to cut greenhouse emissions. Instead, China said it would “peak” emissions and the amount it emits per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
China said it would use more renewable energy, but the country also plans on ramping up its use of coal, natural gas and oil to feed its growing economy.
“Essentially, what they are saying is it’s business as usual,” Patricia Adams, an energy economist and head of of Probe International, told Australia’s ABC News.
“At the moment, 90 percent of China’s energy, transport and some industrial processes is produced with fossil fuels; coal, oil and gas,” Adams said. “In many industrialized nations, they use 80 percent fossil fuels for the same thing, and China is saying we’re going to try and get to where you are now.”
China has taken steps to close down coal mines and shut down coal-fired power plants, but those measures are largely meant to tackle the country’s horrendous air quality problems. Beijing recently became the first Chinese city to replace all its coal power with natural gas.
The White House is currently split on whether or not to keep Trump’s campaign pledge to pull out of the Paris agreement.
Trump is expected to make a decision on whether or not to stay in the agreement by the end of May.