WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump's pullback from a global climate pact could accelerate China's unlikely ascent toward leadership in stemming global warming and promoting green technology, and on global matters far removed from the environment.
Trump's announcement that the US would leave the Paris accord immediately sparked international criticism, deepening perceptions of an
America in retreat after recent reversals on free trade and foreign aid.
China may be poised to fill the breach. The world's largest emitter of man-made carbon dioxide, considered a top cause of climate change, is already making rapid progress toward its Paris goal of stopping emissions growth by 2030. It has overtaken the US in transitioning to renewable energy, generating a fifth of its electricity from renewable sources. The US only sources about 13 percent of its electricity from renewables.
And although China remains heavily reliant on coal and pollution is a persistent problem for its 1.3 billion citizens, the country's communist rulers say they're determined to institute fundamental change. That commitment has much of the world now looking to Beijing, which wants to assert itself on the global stage.