Negotiators from nearly 200 countries around the world are meeting in Morocco this week to hash out the details of the landmark climate-change agreement struck in Paris last December. But the shocking U.S. election results may spell doom for the deal.
The U.N.’s annual climate change conference in Marrakesh this week, known in climate-confab circles as the 22nd Conference of the Parties, or COP 22, is the first big meeting after the historic agreement brokered in Paris, in which 196 countries pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.
The Marrakesh meeting was meant to hash out all the tricky details of actually implementing the Paris deal, which relies on voluntary, national emissions-reduction commitments across a host of economic sectors, from electricity to forestry. A White House energy official said last week that “we’re coming into this year’s COP with a tremendous amount of positive momentum.”
In an energy speech in North Dakota in May, Trump told crowds, “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement — unbelievable — and stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” Trump appeared confused as to what the Paris accord entails and how it is meant to operate.
Even so, he could still scupper the agreement, the first international climate accord that includes developed and developing countries alike. Trump could simply declare that the United States is withdrawing from the pact. Or he could withdraw from the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change itself, under whose auspices international climate deals are constructed. The abdication of U.S. leadership would be critically bad for the fight against climate change, said Varun Sivaram, an energy expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.
U.S. leadership was “critical in making it this far,” he told Foreign Policy. Without that leadership, “the international climate process will still continue de jure, but de facto its progress will stall,” he warned.
Climate campaigners tried to put a brave face on fears of an American exit. Trump’s election will “create some uncertainty, some confusion,” but “the world beyond the U.S. is moving forward,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a business sustainability advocacy group.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Salaheddine Mezouar, the president of this year’s climate gathering and the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, congratulated Trump on his win and stressed that all parties “have the shared responsibility to continue the great progress achieved” in the negotiations to date.
A group of 376 scientists including 30 Nobel laureates sharply rebuked Trump’s campaign comments on climate change in an open letter in September. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of World Resources Institute, said on Wednesday he hoped that “over time, this evidence becomes clear to the incoming administration.”
But many Republicans, buoyed by their surprise win on Tuesday, are coming forward in full force against the climate deal. In a statement on Wednesday, longtime climate gadfly Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that the Trump administration “will have numerous options to forego President Obama’s political commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
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