(Bloomberg) -- People shouldn’t focus on whether U.S. President Donald Trump believes climate change is real, according to one of his own cabinet members.
“Those of you that focus on that are chasing a rabbit down a hole,” U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said to reporters in Tokyo on Monday. “Is the climate changing? Yes. Is man having an impact? Yes,” Perry said ahead of attending Clean Energy and Mission Innovation ministerial meetings in Beijing on Tuesday.
While Trump said last week the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris climate accord, the president never stated his personal view about whether climate change is man-made. Speculation on his beliefs about climate change is a deflection by opponents who ignore ongoing U.S. leadership and innovation to lower emissions, Perry said.
Trump said last week he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement because it favored other nations, a move seen as an opening for China to burnish its image as a global leader on the environment. Business leaders have warned pulling the U.S. from the deal could put the country at a disadvantage in the race to develop and deploy clean-energy technology.
Perry challenged China to compete with U.S. energy technology, insisting that America isn’t backing away from its position as a leader in cleaning up the environment.
“I hope China will step in and attempt to take the mantle away” from the U.S., Perry told reporters Monday in Tokyo. “It would be a good challenge for them.”
Perry also visited the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo on Sunday and pledged American support for cleaning up the reactors, which melted down in 2011. He’s scheduled to be in Beijing Tuesday, where he’ll meet with the world’s biggest polluter and other nations and discuss the benefits of nuclear power, liquefied natural gas and renewables.
“Those that would say, ‘well you created this void where China is going to take over’ -- no, we’re not stepping back and we haven’t created a void,” Perry said. “The United States is not backing down from its role as a leader in cleaning up the planet.”