President says we only have one homeland in a coded warning to Donald Trump not to dismantle the agreement
The world must not allow the Paris climate deal to be derailed or continue to inflict irreparable damage on the environment, Chinese president Xi Jinping has said, amid fears the rise of Donald Trump could strike a body blow to the fight against global warming.
Trump, who will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, has threatened to pull out of the historic Paris agreement and dismissed climate change as a Chinese hoax and expensive bullshit.
But in an address to the United Nations in Geneva on Wednesday, which observers saw as a high-profile bid to bolster Chinas image as a reliable and dedicated climate leader, Xi issued a direct challenge to those views, warning there is only one Earth in the universe and we mankind have only one homeland.
The Paris agreement is a milestone in the history of climate governance. We must ensure this endeavor is not derailed, the Communist party leader said.
All parties should work together to implement the Paris agreement. China will continue to take steps to tackle climate change and fully honor its obligations, Xi added, according to a transcript published by Xinhua, Chinas official news agency.
Just a few months ago, climate campaigners hailed a major breakthrough in efforts to tackle global warming when Barack Obama and Xi jointly announced that their countries, the worlds top two emitters of greenhouse gases, would ratify the Paris accord.
We have a saying in America that you need to put your money where your mouth is, Obama said at the time. And when it comes to combating climate change that is what we are doing we are leading by example.
Signatories of the deal, which came into force in November last year, agreed to keep global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.
However, Trumps shock election and the presence of so many climate sceptics in his administration has thrown the US commitment to such goals into doubt.
In his Geneva speech Xi reaffirmed Beijings pledges to slash its emissions and sought to position China, which remains the worlds top polluter, as a global pacesetter on climate change and sustainable development.
We should make our world clean and beautiful by pursuing green and low-carbon development, he told his audience.
Man coexists with nature, which means that any harm to nature will eventually come back to haunt man. We hardly notice natural resources such as air, water, soil and blue sky when we have them. But we wont be able to survive without them.
Industrialisation has created material wealth never seen before, but it has also inflicted irreparable damage to the environment, Xi went on. We must not exhaust all the resources passed on to us by previous generations and leave nothing to our children or pursue development in a destructive way. Clear waters and green mountains are as good as mountains of gold and silver. We must maintain harmony between man and nature and pursue sustainable development.
Li Shuo, Greenpeaces China climate policy adviser, described Xis speech as a very important political signal especially in the context of the incoming US administration.
The activist said he believed Xis call to arms on the climate was designed to pressure Trumps White House into sticking to his predecessors commitments while simultaneously highlighting Chinas role as a responsible climate leader.
It is a calculated move it is their first move on the chess board and I expect further moves if they are needed at a later stage, said Li.
China has a very important and a very special role in keeping the US on course and we would very much like to see them use their leverage on that, he added.
Zhang Haibin, an expert in environmental diplomacy from Peking Universitys school of international studies, said Xis speech was a response to the global uncertainties and concerns that Trumps election had thrown up, including over climate change.
The presidents words sent a strong signal to the world about Chinas determination to tackle global warming.
Zhang said Beijing would stick to its climate commitments since it understood the importance of cutting deadly air pollution but argued China would not want to serve as the worlds sole leader on climate change.
We regard ourselves as a developing country and, in addition to that, weve got pollution issues and are facing an economic slowdown at home, he said.
Additional reporting by Wang Zhen