Politics

Climate momentum will continue: US envoy on Trump vote

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Moroccan security stand guard in front of the entrance of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco, November 14, 2016.

Credit:

Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

Add climate change activists to the list of those concerned about the coming Trump presidency.

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Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, he promised during the campaign to pull the US out of the new Paris climate accord, and now news reports on the President Elect’s transition team suggest he’s planning to do just that.

All this comes as the United Nations holds its first summit on implementing the Paris agreement this week in Marrakesh Morocco, and as the UN's weather agency reports that 2016 is likely to top 2015 as the hottest year on record.

The surprise results of the US election, with Donald Trump scoring an electoral vote victory over popular vote winner Hillary Clinton, has cast something of a pall over the Marrakesh summit.

But the gloom of last week seems to have lifted a bit, and the line you hear repeatedly is that the rest of the nearly 200 countries that are party to the Paris Agreement will soldier on, with or without the US.

For now, the US remains involved, with a lame duck delegation from the outgoing Obama administration that helped push through the Paris deal having arrived in Marrakech this week.

Delegation head Jonathan Pershing said today that the group has not been contacted by the Trump transition team.

But he did say that the momentum behind the Paris Agreement is strong, and he made a push for the rest of the world to continue.

“I cannot speak for the president elect’s team or to their outlook on international climate policy,” Pershing said at a press conference. “What I do know, however, is that (with) the power of the movement, and the enormous momentum created in Paris and built throughout the year since, it's no longer a question of whether to accelerate the agreement’s implementation, but rather a question of when and how.”

"Heads of state can and will change, but I am confident that we can and we will sustain a durable international effort to counter climate change," Pershing said.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry made an impassioned plea for the US to keep up the fight against dangerous global warming.

"We will wait to see how the next administration addresses this, but I believe we're on the right track and this is a track that the American people are committed to," Kerry said on a trip to New Zealand.

Kerry, who has led the Obama administration’s charge on climate, has also talked about locking in certain aspects of the climate deal before Trump takes over, although attendees at the Marrakech summit say they have no idea what that means.

Kerry will arrive later in the week and is expected to address some of the questions about the unexpected change in direction by the US.

As for what the UN climate deal would look like if the US were to pull out, no one’s sure about that either.

The US contributes twenty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it was expected to be a big player in responding to the crisis. The US has also pledged money to developing nations, many of which stand to lose the most to lose if the US pulls out.

For now, at least, most here at the summit say they’re withholding judgment and moving forward. 

The head of the Least Developed Countries bloc, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu from the Democratic Republic of Congo, says he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude about the Trump administration.

And countries from big players like China on down have said they will stick to their commitments.

Susan Phillips's reporting from the Marrakech climate summit is supported by the International Reporting Project.

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