All climate eyes on Bonn talks
The Paris Agreement is put under question amid uncertainty over the US withdrawal
13 May, 2017
Uncertainty over the US position on the Paris Agreement loomed large over UN talks that opened last Monday in Bonn with a main goal to work out on the hard-fought international deal details implementation, news wires reported. US President Donald Trump was yet to announce whether he intends keeping a campaign promise to withdraw Washington from the pact in whose birth his predecessor, Barack Obama, was instrumental.
According to a White House spokesman, Trump has delayed his decision at least until the G7 summit in Italy at the end-May and meanwhile was to “continue to meet with his team,” seeking advice from both an economic and an environmental perspective to make a decision. “There's no question that if the US withdraws it is going to create difficulties,” Paula Caballero of the World Resources Institute think-tank said as climate envoys met for their first session. She was confident, though, that these challenges would not be “unsurmountable”, noting that businesses, cities and individual US states were firmly on track to a green energy future.
A total of 196 countries are parties to the 2015 deal which Trump threatened to “cancel”. The 11-day Bonn haggle is meant to start drafting a rulebook to guide member countries in the practical execution of the pact, which seeks to brake global warming by curbing fossil fuel emissions. The rulebook must be finished by 2018. But the negotiations risk being overshadowed by fears that the world's number two carbon polluter would finally withdraw and throw the entire process into disarray.
The US did send a delegation to the talks, though smaller than in previous years. Delegation head Trigg Talley, who represented the US under Obama, declined to answer questions on the team's new brief. Earlier, a State Department official told AFP: “We are focused on ensuring that decisions are not taken at these meetings that would prejudice our future policy, undermine the competitiveness of US businesses, or hamper our broader objective of advancing US economic growth and prosperity.”
Current pledges place the world on track for average global warming of around 3 degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels – far above the limit of 2 degrees Celsius targeted in the Paris deal. The Trump administration has already proposed slashing funds for the UN climate science panel, for the Green Climate Fund that helps poor countries combat global warming, and for the UN climate forum under whose auspices the negotiations take place.
Last Monday, 200 global investors managing more than $15 trillion (€13.7 trillion) in assets, urged the G7 group to “stand by their commitments to the Paris Agreement”.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to protect the landmark Paris agreement, which aims to curb climate change and fossil fuel emissions. He made the promise in a phone call with incoming French President Emmanuel Macron, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.