On Friday, less than a day after President Donald Trump announced the United States would leave the Paris climate agreement, China and the European Union reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the agreement’s goals.
“The EU and China consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever,” the 28 EU countries and China said in a joint statement. The countries will “significantly intensify their political, technical, economic, and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy.”
The announcement marks one of the few joint statements between China and the European Union. It also marks a turning point from American global leadership. The 2015 Paris agreement was widely seen as a foreign policy win for the United States and the Obama administration, which had spent years laying the groundwork for a global pact, particularly through bilateral agreements with China and India. The agreement is famously flexible, and lets the industrialized world off with little more than a slap on the wrist for over a hundred years of disproportionate pollution.
Trump, in announcing that the United States would leave the agreement, said it was “bad,” and would cost the country in GDP. Economists and analysts who study the cost of climate change, and the truly terrifying outcomes of not acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, have found that the agreement would likely save the world an enormous amount of money, as well as preventing an untold toll in human life and well-being.
Trump also insisted that other countries would be willing to “renegotiate” the agreement. EU leaders were quick to say they would not. Renegotiating a non-binding agreement that had voluntary pledges doesn’t even make sense, and the rest of the world is ready to move forward on climate, as the EU-China announcement Friday made clear.
With the United States out of the picture, the EU and China will step forward as leaders for clean energy, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission said Friday.
This is particularly troubling news for the U.S. manufacturing sector. Currently China and the United States are in a race to develop clean energy technologies. Consider U.S. companies Tesla (batteries), Enphase (microinverters), and Nest (smart thermostats). All three of those companies have benefited, in one way or another, from U.S. federal investment in technology, which Trump has proposed cutting. Moreover, solar energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, and in the United States. Reducing U.S. commitment to clean energy could undercut a massive growth opportunity — while giving it away to China, the EU, and the rest of the world.