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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Climate talks under shadow of Trump threats
By Mariėtte Le Roux
Bonn (AFP) May 8, 2017


Climate envoys meet in Bonn, but all eyes on Washington
Bonn (AFP) May 9, 2017 - Climate negotiators return for talks in Bonn Tuesday under the cloud of Donald Trump's threats to pull America from the hard-fought Paris Agreement, as the president prepares to hold a special meeting to discuss US participation.

After months of uncertainty, the US president appeared closer to a decision on whether he intends to keep a campaign promise to withdraw Washington from the climate-rescue pact, whose practicalities are being haggled over during UN talks in Bonn.

Trump and his top climate and economic aids will kick-off discussions in earnest on Tuesday in the US, a senior administration official said, adding that "they are meeting tomorrow at 1.30 pm".

Uncertainty over America's future has already loomed large during the 11-day meeting to work out the nuts and bolts of implementing the international deal, which Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, was instrumental in bringing about.

David Balton, the US deputy assistant secretary for international environmental affairs, said Monday: "The last thing I heard is that the president, our president, has indicated that he plans to make a decision some time over the next couple of weeks, but not this week."

A total of 196 countries are now parties to the climate deal, clinched in 2015 after years of tough bartering, which Trump threatened to "cancel".

The May 8-18 Bonn meeting is meant to start drafting a guide for member countries to execute the pact, which seeks to brake global warming by curbing fossil fuel emissions.

But the negotiations risk being hamstrung over fears that the world's number two carbon polluter will pull out and throw the pact into disarray.

"There's no question that if the US withdraws it is going to create difficulties... in the negotiations," Paula Caballero of the World Resources Institute think-tank said as climate envoys met for their first session since Trump took office.

- No renegotiation -

The US did send a delegation to the talks, led by Obama-era negotiator Trigg Talley, who declined to comment on their brief.

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."

Numerous speakers at a plenary session Monday stressed that the deal cannot be "renegotiated" -- a proposal of Trump's Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Widely hailed as the last chance to stave off worst-case-scenario global warming, the Paris Agreement was savaged by a campaigning Trump, who called climate change a "hoax" perpetrated by China.

With the rest of the world waiting ever since, Trump has said he will make his decision before the next G7 meeting on May 26-27 in Sicily.

Salaheddine Mezouar of Morocco, who presided over the last high-level climate negotiations in 2016, said he trusted that "the good sense and pragmatic spirit President Trump and his team" would prevail.

"It would be difficult, crazy, to go against public opinion, against the domestic will, and the will of the international community," Mezouar said in Bonn.

Some fear a US U-turn would dampen enthusiasm among other signatories for more efforts on emissions-cutting targets.

This is key, as current pledges place the world on track for warming much higher than the ceiling of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) written into the agreement.

US President Donald Trump's threats to pull America out of the climate-rescue Paris Agreement is expected to cast a long shadow over UN talks starting Monday to work on the nuts and bolts of the deal.

The 11-day haggle in Bonn 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.

But the negotiations risk being sidetracked by fears that the world's number two carbon polluter will withdraw and throw the entire process into disarray.

"Obviously, the speculation coming out of Washington is now at the top of our minds," environment and energy minister Thoriq Ibrahim of the Maldives told AFP.

This is the first round of negotiations under the UN's climate convention (UNFCCC) since Trump's ascent to the White House.

His predecessor Barack Obama, alongside China's Xi Jinping, led a diplomatic push which saw 195 countries seal the climate deal in the French capital in 2015, after years of tough bartering.

Widely hailed as the last chance to stave off worst-case-scenario global warming, the pact was savaged by Trump during his presidential campaign.

He called climate change a "hoax" perpetrated by China, and promised to "cancel" the deal as president.

With the rest of the world on tenterhooks ever since, Trump has said he will make his decision before the next G7 meeting on May 26-27 in Sicily.

"The question of whether this creates a difficult backdrop for the negotiations is clearly a 'yes'," said Paula Caballero, who heads the climate programme at the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI).

Some fear a US withdrawal from the agreement would dampen enthusiasm among other signatories for ramping up national emissions-cutting targets.

- It's about 'competitiveness' -

Current pledges place the world on track for average global warming of around three degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels -- far over the limit of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) targeted in the Paris deal.

A State Department official confirmed last week that a US delegation will travel to Bonn, though it will be a "much smaller" one than in recent years.

"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," said the official, when asked about the US negotiators' brief.

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 UNFCCC itself.

The forum's budget is a key item on the Bonn agenda.

There has been a chorus of appeals from US and foreign business leaders, politicians and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for Washington not to abandon the agreement -- including from the prime minister of Fiji, which will preside over the next round of high-level talks in November.

"Don't let the whole team down by leaving when we have a clear game plan and have put so many scores on the board," Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama appealed last week.

The key mission of the May 8-18 meeting is to start drafting "rules" for putting the agreement into action: what information must countries include in their emissions updates, for example, and how must they report?

The rulebook must be finished by 2018, when the first global emissions-cutting stocktake is due to be held.

"In Bonn this week it's important that progressive forces come together to manage any fall-out resulting from any US retreat," said analyst Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, which tracks climate impacts on poor countries.

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Edible insects could play key role in cutting harmful emissions
Edinburgh UK (SPX) May 09, 2017
Eating insects instead of beef could help tackle climate change by reducing harmful emissions linked to livestock production, research suggests. Replacing half of the meat eaten worldwide with crickets and mealworms would cut farmland use by a third, substantially reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, researchers say. While consumers' reluctance to eat insects may limit their consu ... read more

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