EU sees US being swayed by its climate change 'example'

The economic outlook is clouded by power outages (AFP Photo/Wikus DE WET) (AFP/File)

Brussels (AFP) - Europe believes the United States will end up following its lead in fighting climate change once it sees the economic benefits that carbon-cutting can bring, EU officials said Wednesday.

This incentive will be stressed at a UN Climate Change Summit two weeks from now at the United Nations in New York, when parties to the 2015 Paris climate agreement will talk up its implementation despite Washington's withdrawal from the pact under President Donald Trump.

The US exit is "a pity... that makes the fight against climate change much more difficult," European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said, adding however that the European Union could "lead by example."

To do that, he told a news conference, the bloc must "develop not only the political or environmental narrative but also the economic one: To be green pays off. To go clean it brings you dividends. To go for clean tech brings you more jobs."

He added: "I think we have all the good figures to support this."

The argument is aimed not only at Trump, who has prioritised the US economy above environmental concerns, but other leaders too, Sefcovic said.

It is also hoped the policy could spur greater action from China which, though it invests heavily in renewable energy, remains deeply dependent on burning fossil fuels to keep its giant economy growing.

"China is still peaking emissions, and will not peak until 2030," said the EU commissioner for energy and climate action, Miguel Arias Canete, adding: "This is a global effort, otherwise we will not be able to stop global warming."

Together, China and the United States account for nearly half the planet's carbon emissions, making them the key countries needed to get behind urgent efforts to battle climate change.

For the EU the issue has been thrown into stark relief over the past five years.

Growing public concern was expressed in recent European parliamentary elections in which green parties did well.

The new European Commission to take charge in November has made it one of its top priorities.

It plans to boost its climate change fight by aiming for carbon neutrality across the bloc by 2050. And it has pledged to plough a quarter of its 1.3 trillion euro ($1.4 trillion) budget plan for 2021-27 into climate mitigation efforts.