I’ve just spent the last few hours at press conferences in the Chinese and USA pavilions at COP22 and thought I’d do a quick blog update as they were both pretty insightful. Since the outcome of the USA election last week and given the things Trump has been saying with regards to climate change and the Paris Agreement (essentially that he thinks climate change is ‘unbelievable’ and will remove USA from the list of signatories), both conferences were packed out as everyone was wanting to know, ‘what next’ for the two largest economies.
Kind of like at Glastonbury where you stumble upon the best music by mistake, so I did with this press conference with Vice Foreign Minister of China, Liu Zhenmin. Over the last year China has become one of the leading players in tackling climate change with billions of $ invested in renewable energy and there’s a lot of talk here about them being the new leading players in climate talks. The questions put to Liu Zhenmin were broadly around China’s own ongoing commitment towards the Paris Agreement, how their relationship with USA will change and the potential of China and the EU developing stronger relationships in light of Brexit and Trump.
Reassuringly Liu Zhenmin was clear in stating that China would remain committed to achieving the targets made in Paris and ‘hoped that USA would also make the right decisions’, but stressed the world will need to wait a few more months to see how USA will act. He also said that China would continue to co-operate with USA in spite of what moves Trump makes. On the EU he recognised the role it has played in pushing forward climate change targets but made no promises on whether they would work more closely together in the case of USA doing a U-turn on Paris.
And then over to the USA pavilion to get their take on it all and to watch secretary of State John Kerry give his speech (I confess, I also stumbled upon this, I was actually en route to another event…again, just like Glasto!). This was packed out again with everyone tapping away on laptops and phones in order to get the secretary’s messages out to the rest of the world as fast as possible.
The speech was captivating and full of loads of information (2.25 billion people displaced by natural disasters, and did you know that every year enough water melts off the ice cap in Greenland that can provide water for New York city for two decades?!). But most importantly John Kerry stated that USA would not back out of the deals made in Paris last year and in an effort to reassure said that promises made on the campaign trail (he never mentioned Trump’s name) often pan out very differently once in office. He also suggested that for many other important and influential stakeholders – military leaders, intelligence unit and national security climate change is not a partisan issue. He was also very clear in saying that the market will dictate our future, not government.
Reading between the lines of both events it seems that China will work with USA regardless of their commitment to tackling climate change, but will also continue to take a leading role themselves in present and future COPs. And for USA – there are too many important people for Trump to keep on side before he can simply remove USA from the list of signatories (fingers crossed!!!!).