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Politicians from the European Union and China vowed to take the lead on international climate commitments. (Photo: Miguel Arias Cañete/Twitter)

Global Anger and Dismay After Trump Slams Brakes on U.S. Climate Action

'Whoever tries to shift into reverse gear is only going to harm themselves'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

The world reacted with dismay and anger as President Donald Trump issued an executive order Tuesday that dismantled critical U.S. climate policies, betraying the country's international climate commitments.

While world leaders, scientists, and policy makers expressed outrage and skepticism about the president's move, they also vowed to step up and increase climate change mitigation in the absence of U.S. leadership.

"If 'America First' means you want to lead, then you can't turn the clock back and rely on a century-old technology. You're missing the train," Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, told the New York Times about Trump's push to reinvigorate the coal industry.

"Whoever tries to change into reverse gear is only going to harm themselves when it comes to international competitiveness," German environment minister Barbara Hendricks told the Times.

"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing, according to Reuters.

"We are willing to work with the international community to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, to join hands to promote the process of tackling climate change to jointly promote green, low carbon sustainable development for the whole world, to create an even better future for the next generation," Lu continued.

Indeed, in recent years China has emerged as a leader in international climate talks, galvanized by public outrage over the toxic smog choking its urban centers. As a result, the country is moving away from coal and investing billions in renewable energy.

"The continued leadership of the E.U., China, and many other major economies is now more important than ever. When it comes to climate and the global clean energy transition, there cannot be vacuums, there can only be drivers, and we are committed to driving this agenda forward," said Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union's climate action commissioner, according to the Guardian.

Many leaders also affirmed the integrity of the Paris agreement. Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations climate negotiations, described Trump's order as a "sad commentary" on his administration, but argued that Paris will withstand it.

"This is a multilateral treaty that has already been ratified by 140 countries and counting, and it's definitely not at risk," Figueres told Public Radio International's "The World."

"One country can choose to park itself, if you will, on the sidelines of a highway that is very quickly taking us toward decarbonization, but [that] does not change the direction of travel of all the rest of the countries," Figueres added.

"Despite all the current geopolitical uncertainties, the world can count on Europe to maintain global leadership in the fight against climate change. We will stand by Paris, we will defend Paris, and we will implement Paris," Cañete told the Washington Post.

The Guardian's Damian Carrington also argued that it is "far from fanciful to imagine other nations penalizing future U.S. goods if they are produced with dirty energy. Politicians are already talking about such border carbon taxes and might point to the astronomical tariffs the U.S. imposes on imports of which it disapproves, such as Chinese steel."

Author and activist Naomi Klein also urged Americans to call for such sanctions in the face of Trump's extreme anti-climate stances in her Sydney Peace Prize lecture last year.


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