China, Europe now lead drive for a greener Earth » Manila Bulletin News

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It is indeed ironic that the world’s biggest polluter of the atmosphere, the United States, has rejected any participation in the international agreement to seek to limit the carbon dioxide emissions of industries so as to hold back rising world temperatures.

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was approved by some 190 nations, including the Philippines, in December, 2015, with each country submitting its own plan for its contribution to the overall goal of keeping the rise in world temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Prior to the final agreement, the US and China, the 2nd biggest contributor of polluting gases in the world, set an inspiring example when they signed a bilateral agreement on their respective commitments to climate action.

Last Thursday, the US under new President Donald Trump turned its back on the Paris agreement. Trump claimed it was too lenient on certain other countries, notably China, India, and Europe. He said he was putting “America First,” evidently referring to the US coal industry which has been suffering from the steady rise in the use of renewable energy in the world.

America’s staunchest allies in Europe – France, Germany, and Italy – have all expressed regret over Trump’s decision. Some of his own top aides in Washington, DC, expressed their concern, including, surprisingly, his own daughter Ivanka Trump. The governors of California, New York, and Washington states declared they were proceeding with their plans to carry out state programs to reduce carbon emissions.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry — who had represented the US in the negotiations that led to the consolidation and approval of the Paris agreement — was specially concerned that the US was pulling out of the agreement. The glaciers in the polar regions and in Greenland are steadily melting, he said, and scientists predict this will raise sea levels by as much as six to nine meters. The Philippines had been one of the leading nations in the worldwide campaign for the Paris agreement; as an island nation, it would be among the first to suffer from rising sea levels.

Apart from the setback on the worldwide effort for a cleaner, greener, safer Earth, President Trump’s decision may signal a change in the alignment of nations in international affairs. The deeply disappointed European nations reportedly are looking for leadership elsewhere and are looking to Asia. China, it is said, may be stepping into the breach.

This Friday, China and the European Union forged an alliance that will lead the world energy transition towards a low-carbon economy.

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