China, EU seek to save climate change accord

Officials to issue statement committing to full implementation of pact as well as free trade

BRUSSELS • China and the European Union will try today to save an international pact on climate change as President Donald Trump was set to decide this morning whether the US would pull out of it.

As China emerges as Europe's unlikely global partner on areas from free trade to security, Premier Li Keqiang will meet top EU officials at a summit in Brussels that will also discuss North Korea's missile tests.

In a statement backed by all 28 EU states, the European Union and China will commit to full implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, EU and Chinese officials said.

The joint statement, the first between the China and the EU, commits to cutting back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology and helping raise US$100 billion (S$138 billion) a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut emissions.

"The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever," the statement, by European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and China's Mr Li, will say.

"The increasing impacts of climate change require a decisive response," they will say.

China asked that the annual summit, normally held in mid-July, be brought forward to press home President Xi Jinping's defence of open trade at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, in response to Mr Trump's protectionist stance. In a broader final communique focusing on a range of other issues, Mr Li, Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk are expected to commit to free trade and reduce a global steel glut that Europe and the United States say is an attempt by China to corner local markets.

The EU and China will seek to "refrain from all forms of protectionism and uphold free and rules-based trade", the leaders will say in a 60-point statement, according to a draft.

They promise to "address steel overcapacity at its roots".

By far the world's top steel producer, China's annual steel output is almost double the EU's total production. Western governments say Chinese steel exports have caused a global steel crisis, costing jobs and forcing plant closures.

But Mr Trump's plan to follow through on a campaign pledge to withdraw from the Paris accord, agreed on by nearly 200 countries in 2015, is now dominating, diplomats said.

China, which overtook the United States as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007, is ready to support the European Union, despite tensions on other issues from human rights to trade, according to China's ambassador to the EU Yang Yanyi. "China and the EU need to steadfastly adhere to the Paris agreement," Mr Yang said in a written briefing to reporters.

The warmer EU-China relationship, partly spurred by Mr Trump, is despite a long-running spat with Beijing on what Europe sees as China's dumping of low-cost goods on European markets.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2017, with the headline 'China, EU seek to save climate change accord'. Print Edition | Subscribe