President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017.

Washington’s retreat also holds potential economic advantages for Beijing.

“If U.S. policy shifts in favor of fossil fuels as opposed to renewable ones, in the long run China will gain the upper hand in the inevitable global move toward cleaner sources of energy,” said Ann Carlson, professor of environmental law at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The withdrawal of the U.S. from the global community opens up more opportunities for China.”

“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement after Trump’s announcement.

Trump is not legally obliged to follow his predecessor’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a third of 2005 levels by 2025, but on Thursday, he claimed the county would remain environmentally friendly.

Indeed, low natural gas prices are expected to support further U.S. emissions reductions, noted Randy Kroszner, economics professor at the University of Chicago and former Federal Reserve Governor. In fact, he added, Beijing is the one most in need of reform: “The key for world climate change is China.”

For its part, Asia’s largest economy is already taking steps to mitigate the impact Washington’s exit from the Paris deal.

The EU and China are expected to announce intensified joint measures to reduce carbon emissions in a statement later on Friday, including developing more green technology and helping to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut emissions, Reuters reported.

“China is already cutting emissions faster than predicted,” noted Carlson.

Beijing’s new diplomatic approach to environmental issues could also boost international efforts, said Li, noting how China’s ambassador to the UN pledged in March to help bridge climate negotiations.

“This is a significant progress from the traditional approach of ‘hide your capability and bide your time.’ China now is invested in multilateral climate governance. Its leaders are taking ownership of this issue,” Li said. “This is an area that Chinese political and economic efforts can partly offset America’s retreat.”

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