Trump win raises question about UN climate deal
MARRAKECH, Morocco — The election of a U.S. president who has called global warming a “hoax” raised questions Wednesday about America’s involvement in the Paris Agreement on climate change — and the future of the deal itself.
As the sun rose over the Atlas mountains, news of Donald Trump’s victory sunk in at U.N. climate talks in Marrakech, where delegates from almost 200 countries — including the U.S. — were meeting for the first time since the landmark deal took effect.
The first official reaction came from small island nations who fear they will be washed away by rising seas. In a statement, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine said Trump has been the source of a lot of “bluster” on climate change over the last year.
“But now that the election campaign has passed and the realities of leadership settle in, I expect he will realize that climate change is a threat to his people and to whole countries which share seas with the U.S., including my own,” she said.
Environmental activists were devastated by the election result, with May Boeve, leader of the 350.org environmental group, calling it a “disaster.”
“Trump will try and slam the brakes on climate action, which means we need to throw all of our weight on the accelerator,” Boeve said. “In the United States, the climate movement will put everything on the line to protect the progress we’ve made and continue to push for bold action.”
In contrast to President Barack Obama, who made climate change a key policy area, Trump has called global warming a “hoax” on social media and pledged in May to “cancel” the Paris deal, which was adopted in the French capital last year.
More than 100 countries, including the U.S., have formally joined the agreement, which seeks to reduce emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases and help vulnerable countries adapt to rising seas, intensifying heat waves, the spreading of deserts and other climate changes.
Many delegates in Morocco insisted other countries would go ahead with the deal regardless of what the U.S. does.
“I’m sure that the rest of the world will continue to work on it,” Moroccan chief negotiator Aziz Mekouar said. “It’s an emergency and everybody is committed and I can see it here with delegations. Everybody is willing to work even more.”
Li Shuo, a climate policy expert at Greenpeace in China, said the world’s biggest nation — and top polluter — would continue to work on climate change, not because of the international talks but “out of its own very genuine concern on air pollution, water pollution and food security.”
The Obama administration’s delegation in Marrakech declined to speak to reporters about the election outcome. However, before the two-week conference, U.S. officials said they expect other countries to stay the course irrespective of what the U.S. decides, because they see it is in their national interests to transition to cleaner energy.
The withdrawal process would take four years — an entire presidential term — under the terms of the agreement. However, Trump could also decide to simply ignore the Obama administration’s Paris pledge to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The pledges are self-determined, and there is no punishment for countries that miss their targets.
Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a veteran U.S. observer of the climate talks, said he hopes Trump will adopt a more “responsible” view of climate change once he takes office.
“Even he does not have the power to amend and change the laws of physics, to stop the impacts of climate change, to stop the rising sea levels,” Meyer said.
Several analyses have shown that despite pledges to cut or curb emissions from nearly every country in coming decades, the world is not on track to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) compared with preindustrial times, the goal of the Paris Agreement. Temperatures have already gone up by half that amount.
Many climate scientists who feel countries aren’t doing enough to reduce emissions were dismayed by the election outcome.
“It seems like a most miserable U.S. election result for climate stewardship prospects,” said Jason Box, a glacier expert at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “Can the world do climate stewardship without the U.S.? It has to.”
Julienne Stroeve, of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data center, called the result a huge blow to climate funding and clean energy progress in the U.S.
“The question of whether or not the Paris accord can survive without the U.S. is a good one and I’m not sure how it will unfold,” she said.
The pro-fossil fuels American Energy Alliance welcomed Trump’s victory, saying American people are tired of their interests taking a back seat to special interests in Washington.
“President-elect Trump’s victory presents an opportunity reset the harmful energy policies of the last generation,” said the group’s president, Thomas Pyle. “He has laid out an energy plan that puts the needs of American families and workers first.” TVJ