BEIJING – China said Thursday that it will work with the European Union to uphold the international agreement on climate change even if the U.S. pulls out.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce his decision on whether to abandon the Paris climate accord Thursday afternoon U.S. time (3 p.m. EDT; 1900 GMT).
While not mentioning the U.S. by name, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that climate change is a "global challenge" that no country can ignore.
"No matter whether other countries' positions may change, we will continue to uphold" a model of sustainable development, Hua said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
China is the top emitter of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and the United States is second. Both were key to reaching an agreement at Paris in 2015, which came into force in November and aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times.
Trump claimed before taking office that climate change was a "hoax" created by China to hurt the U.S. economy, an assertion that stands in defiance of broad scientific consensus.
In March, he signed an executive order to roll back Obama-era policies regulating carbon emissions. Trump said he wanted to create more coal mining jobs, though industry analysts say demand is likely to decline as the price of solar, wind and other alternatives falls.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will discuss the Paris agreement in talks with EU leaders in Brussels on Friday.
"We wish to work with the EU to strengthen our communication and practical cooperation in climate change," Hua said.
Asked what kind of exchanges Beijing's leaders have had with Trump regarding his decision, Hua said China and the United States "have maintained close communications at various levels" on subjects including climate change.