Xi, Macron Unite on Climate Despite US Withdrawal

BEIJING (AFP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that the Paris climate pact was “irreversible,” showing a united front after President Donald Trump formally withdrew from the accord this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron. (AP file photo)

The joint declaration came at the end of Macron’s second visit to China, which started Monday in Shanghai and included talks on trade and the Iranian nuclear issue.

The French leader said he told Xi that dialogue was needed to resolve months of unrest in Hong Kong — ignoring Beijing’s warning that such sensitive topics should not be on the agenda.

But Xi and Macron found common ground on climate change.

Major powers expressed regret and concern after Trump went ahead with the pullout from the Paris accord despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change.

Washington presented its withdrawal letter to the United Nations on Monday, the first possible date under the accord negotiated by President Barack Obama, making the world’s largest economy the sole major holdout from the agreement.

In a joint statement, Xi and Macron reaffirmed “their firm support for the Paris accord which they consider as an irreversible process and a compass for strong action on climate.”

Without naming the United States, Macron said he “deplores the choices made by others” as he sat next to Xi after the talks at the imposing Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital.

With the European Union, China and Russia backing the pact, he said, “The isolated choice of one or another is not enough to change the course of the world. It only leads to marginalization.”

Xi took a veiled swipe at the United States, which launched a trade war with China last year and has angered Beijing on several diplomatic issues.

“We advocate for mutual respect and equal treatment, and are opposed to the law of the jungle and acts of intimidation,” Xi said.

“We advocate for openness, inclusion and for mutually beneficial cooperation, and are opposed to protectionism and a zero-sum game.”

China’s efforts against climate change are important, as it is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Xi called on the international community to “jointly protect our homeland planet Earth,” saying, “We are against the attempt to place national interests above the common interests of humanity.”

In a document titled the “Beijing Call for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change,” the two leaders voiced their determination to improve international cooperation to “ensure a complete and efficient implementation of the Paris accord.”

The document includes a commitment to restoring almost one-third of degraded land, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in the medium term. Under the Paris climate accord, nations set their own goals to address global warming.

After the meeting, Macron said at a news conference at the French embassy that he raised the unrest in Hong Kong during his talks with Xi.

“I obviously conveyed our concerns, which are shared by Europe,” Macron said, adding that he told Xi that there was a need for “de-escalation through dialogue.”

Hong Kong has been convulsed by five months of huge and increasingly violent protests calling for greater democratic freedoms.

A Chinese foreign ministry official had warned before Macron’s visit that Hong Kong was a matter of China’s internal affairs and should not be on the diplomatic agenda.

But it did not stop the two sides from striking deals, including an agreement to protect 200 European and Chinese agricultural products — whose names are tied to their regions — against counterfeiting, from Champagne to Feta cheese and Panjin rice.

The two sides also committed to signing by Jan. 31 a contract for construction of a nuclear fuel recycling plant in China, which would involve French energy giant Orano.

On Iran, Macron said the two countries agreed to deepen joint efforts to persuade Tehran to “fully respect its obligations” under the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Washington’s abandonment of the agreement in May last year followed by its reimposition of crippling sanctions prompted Tehran to begin a phased suspension of its own commitments.

President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Iran would resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant south of Tehran, a move Macron decried as “grave.”

© Agence France-Presse

%d bloggers like this: