In an unexpected statement, China has publicly objected to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to exit a global climate change pact.
The comments came from China's top climate change negotiator Xie Zhenhua, who told reporters the world is balancing environmental protection and economic growth. When asked how he'd work with a Trump administration after Trump has repeatedly vowed to "cancel" the Paris climate deal, Xie was candid in his response.
"If they resist this trend, I don't think they'll win the support of their people, and their country's economic and social progress will also be affected," Xie said. "I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends."
While Xie has earned a reputation for his blunt talk, the comments on a foreign election are quite rare. But they do come at an important time: the Paris climate agreement, which bound 195 countries to the first-ever universal global climate deal, is one of the largest global agreements ever and is set to take effect on Friday.
Nat Keohane, the Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund and a former special advisor to President Obama, was surprised to see the comments as well.
"I think it's remarkable to see how far we've come when you've got the Chinese — the world's largest emitter — who for so long were in the position of saying no on Climate, to have them being the ones to say the U.S. needs to be committed on global action," Keohane told A Plus.
Xie's words reflect a growing global consensus that action on climate change must be taken. Trump, who once accused climate change of being a hoax "created by the Chinese," is representing one of the last political parties in the world to reject the science surrounding climate change. But they're now up against a global coalition.
"Every country in the world — big, small, developed and industrialized — has said we're going to cut climate pollution and are laying out ambitious goals," Keohane said. "But that agreement is only as good as the national policies countries put in place to meet it. That's why the U.S. meeting its climate commitments and continuing the trends we're on to reduce our emissions and then accelerating [them] to cut them faster is critical."
Keohane emphasized that his optimism is intact, and regardless of who the next president is, he doesn't think the U.S. is going to pull out of the Paris agreement.
"I think when other countries look to the U.S. and look to that kind of leadership, they are looking for a time when Congress will stop being so gridlocked on this issue," he said, adding that the U.S. needs to act "not just because it's a global issue with critical implications for the future of the planet, but because this is fundamental to American prosperity and the American economy."
Check out A Plus' conversation with Keohane from earlier this year:
Cover photo: WikiCommons