What If Trump And Xi Were To See Eye To Eye On Sustainability?

04/12/2017 10:03 am ET Updated Apr 19, 2017
Hurricane moving toward Florida
NASA Goddard Photo
Hurricane moving toward Florida

President Trump and President Xi of China recently met. Imagine a world in which Trump and Xi, the leaders of the two largest national economies, came up with a plan to combat climate change, commit to renewable energy, and clean up the effects of industrial pollution.

Here is my envisioning of Trump and Xi focusing on a transition to sustainability instead of trade deals and monetary policies. It is modeled on Trump’s actual recent speech in which he re-committed to the old energy models of coal, oil, and gas. This post reimagines the American President as pro-planet instead of pro-coal. In a world where humanity was meeting the evolutionary challenge presented by the ecological crisis, here is what a dialogue might have sounded like between the leaders of the nations with the largest economies, consumption, pollution, and ecological footprint. (The actual meeting lacked any discussion on climate change or clean energy.) May this aspirational alt-news become real news while we still have time to address the human ecological crisis.

President Trump: Chinese President Xi Jinping and I had a great meeting. I told President Xi, I said, let’s deal with climate change the way you deal with economic development - because this is going to be a great operation. And we agreed on a plan to reduce emissions and pollution. Together, China and the U.S. are going to do a truly great job for our planet. We have a very, very impressive group here to celebrate the start of a new era in American and Chinese clean energy production and job creation.

Today, we are eliminating obstacles to deal effectively with climate change. We are restoring economic incentives for clean energy development, and allowing our companies and our workers to thrive, compete, and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, fellas.

President Xi: I couldn't agree more with you. We are going to try to turn around the collective ship of humanity which is heading full steam ahead for an iceberg. One of the ways were going to do that is by engaging our religious communities-- Buddhist, Daoist Confucian, Christian, and Muslim. They all have profound religious teachings to promote sustainable living. You know, since the Communist revolution here in the 1940s, we have been pursuing a materialistic world view that has put material and economic growth as a top priority and everything else behind it. We share that in common with America, even if the way we are seeking economic growth is different. We are doing it through a state-led economy, and you are doing it through a market led economy. But our people and your people have created a similar problem.

President Trump: I want to thank all of our clean energy industry leaders who are with us and who share our determination to create jobs in America, for Americans, and for President Xi to be doing the same in China. Thank you.

Today, I want us to take bold action to follow through on my promise to aggressively address climate change. My administration is honoring U.S. environmental commitments, putting an end to destructive carbon emissions, and working to develop sustainable energy alternatives. And we're going to have safety, we're going to have clean water, we're going to have clear air.

One after another, we’re keeping our promises and putting power back into the hands of the people who understand the complex problems facing our planet, so we can win at fixing them. First, today’s energy policies call for an immediate reevaluation of the American reliance on fossil fuels. We will not open any new oil pipelines at this critical moment for people and the planet, so we denied the permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline. We will also ban fracking that threatens our water and ecosystems. I also commit to strengthening the Clean Power Plan.

Second, we are committed to developing alternatives to coal production, and re-training the workers in clean energy industries so they have jobs again. We are going to continue expanding clean energy production, and create more jobs in renewable energy. We’ll use sustainable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal power, without all the pollution or global warming emissions. These are the alternatives we need now to the production of oil, natural gas, clean coal, and shale energy.

President Xi: That is so important. In our cities on the eastern seaboard of China, the air is often unbreathable. This is not a way for anyone to live, and we can't just keep burning coal with reckless abandon and think that the problem is going to resolve itself. There was actually a recent study that showed the climate change is weakening the wind in northern China, and that's making our air pollution problems even worse. Until we stop, our coal burning is going to stay over our heads and in our lungs, and it is exacerbating the global problem of climate disruption.

President Trump: My action today is the latest in a series of steps to create American jobs and to grow American energy independence. (Applause.) President Xi is committed to the same in China. Trina Solar Limited is a huge Chinese alternative energy company that’s already succeeding, and a model for other similar companies. And if you noticed today, Solar Alliance of America -- great company -- announced massive new spending on three big projects in the state of Michigan -- a state which I love very much.

Together, we are going to start a terrific new clean energy revolution -- one that celebrates American production on American soil, and the same for our friends in China.

Celeste Aronoff contributed to this post.

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