At the recent Belt and Road Summit hosted by China, thirty countries reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement and called on all countries to implement their commitments under the Agreement. At a time when the White House is attempting to backslide from the global effort to combat climate change, this statement demonstrates once again that a Trump effort to evade climate action would make the United States a global outcast.
The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s high-profile effort to promote investments and cooperation internationally. The Summit outcomes highlight the areas that the Chinese government views as high-priority for their global engagement—with Chinese President Xi Jinping heavily invested in the success of this initiative. The reference to the Paris Agreement and climate action in the Summit communique is an additional sign that China is preparing to step up its global leadership on climate change.
Here is a rundown of the relevant highlights from the summit.
The communique from the summit encouraged all parties to fully implement the Paris Agreement:
“We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through taking urgent action on climate change and encouraging all parties which have ratified it to fully implement the Paris Agreement...”
This statement was supported by the leaders from a diverse group of countries including China, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Italy, and Pakistan (see full list of countries below). This communique reflects the commitment of this broad group of countries to the Paris Agreement.
China is signaling once again that it will take on greater global leadership. Absent U.S. leadership on climate change, the Chinese have consistently signaled that they will take on a larger role in helping to advance global climate action. Prior to the summit, the Chinese government issued guidance for green infrastructure development to support the development and implementation of a series of ecological and environmental risk prevention policies and measures. The plan is to develop an international green cooperation platform and improve policy measures to protect the environment.
China also released a statement on its conception of the Belt and Road Initiative. This includes a commitment to strengthen cooperation on ecological and environmental protection, especially to actively fulfill international responsibilities on climate change:
Addressing climate change. China is actively contributing to global climate governance and is working with countries to promote the Paris Agreement and made an important contribution to the early entry into force of the Agreement. We will actively cooperate with other countries on solar energy, wind energy, biogas, hydropower and clean stoves to implement energy efficiency, energy savings and environmental protection, and so on. We will continue to cooperate with other countries through exchanges and trainings. [translated from Mandarin]
This direction was further amplified by signals from key Chinese ministries and agencies that spelled out how they would work to achieve these climate and environmental objectives through the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a plan for environmental cooperation for the initiative, including the need for green financial instruments for investment and trade. China’s National Development and Reform Commission and National Energy Administration also issued a statement, highlighting the need to cope with climate change through a new round of energy and technological innovation and new mechanisms of global energy governance, with an emphasis on sustainable energy. The NDRC and NEA statement (in Mandarin) included the following goal:
Promote sustainable energy for all. Implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to promote the realization of affordable, reliable and sustainable modern energy services for all countries, to promote clean energy investment and development in all countries, and to actively pursue international energy efficiency Cooperation.
These thirty countries have reaffirmed their commitment to fully implementing the Paris Agreement and China is reaffirming its intent to play a greater leadership role around international climate action. These are encouraging signs when contrasted with the actions of President Trump, who has signaled that he will try to pull the U.S. backward on climate action—potentially making the U.S. into a global pariah.