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CLIMATE SCIENCE
The Trump effect: Wary climate diplomats 'wait and see'
By Marlowe HOOD
Marrakesh, Morocco (AFP) Nov 11, 2016


UN chief confident Trump will drop rhetoric, show leadership
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 11, 2016 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced confidence on Friday that Donald Trump will drop the strident rhetoric that propelled him to the White House and engage with the world to confront global crises like climate change.

Ban told AFP in an interview that he will soon speak by phone with the US president-elect and hopes to meet him to explain how the United Nations expects the United States to "continue to work for humanity."

Trump won the US presidency on a platform that calls for closer ties with Russia, pulling out of the Paris climate deal, shaking up security alliances and questioning US funding of the United Nations.

"This is what he said during the campaign period, on the campaign trail," Ban said in the interview at UN headquarters where the Trump victory has shocked world diplomats.

"Now, post-election, when he creates his transition team with experts and people with vision and expertise, I am sure that the United States will continue to play a leading role," he said.

- Worrying statements -

Ban, 72, is stepping down on December 31 after 10 years as the world's diplomat-in-chief with the biggest success of his tenure under threat: the Paris climate agreement.

During his campaign, Trump described global warming as a hoax invented by the Chinese, vowing to renege on US pledges to cut down greenhouse gas emissions and help finance the shift to a new green economy worldwide.

"He has made a lot of worrying statements, but I am sure that he will understand the whole importance and seriousness and urgency," he said.

"The presidency may be important, but humanity and all our lives and our planet Earth are eternal."

Ban argued that there was a strong consensus in the United States and across the world on the need to address global warming, suggesting Trump would be recklessly out-of-sync if he scrapped the deal.

"Now business communities are fully on board. Civil society members are fully on board. How can one change all this course? It's a huge trend," he said.

"It will create serious problems if anybody wants to undo it, or unravel all this process."

The interview was Ban's first full assessment of the impact of the Trump electoral victory on global diplomacy.

- Real values -

The UN chief watched the election results unfold on Tuesday from his Manhattan home and retired just as news channels were beginning to predict a Trump win.

"I got up at 4:00 am and I found that the whole world had changed," said Ban. He described the outcome as "quite a surprise."

He brushed aside the suggestion that the United States, by far the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations, could cut funding or sidestep the world body in addressing global issues.

"I am not much worried, much concerned about what has been talked (about) during the electoral process," he said.

The former South Korean foreign minister was elected UN chief in 2006 with strong backing from the United States under the Republican presidency of George W. Bush.

Ban expressed gratitude to Bush for agreeing to UN-led talks on climate change even though it was a long road to the Paris accord reached in December last year and now signed by all 193 UN member-states.

While Trump has yet to outline his policies, Ban sought to downplay anxiety over a new world order under his presidency, saying all US administrations since the founding of the United Nations after World War II have been committed to core principles.

"As I have seen in all many different presidencies," Ban said, "there has not been much difference when it comes to real values and principles for the United Nations charter -- and for humanity."

The world expects the United States to uphold commitments under the landmark Paris climate treaty despite Donald Trump's vow to pull out, the incoming head of its UN implementing body told AFP Friday.

"The Paris Agreement is here," Moroccan foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar, who took over stewardship of the 196-nation UN climate forum from France earlier this week, said in an interview.

"It's entry into force means that governments must face up to their responsibilities."

"It would be, I think, extremely difficult to retreat -- there's no turning back," he added.

At UN headquarters in New York, meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed confidence that US president-elect Trump will come to understand the "seriousness and urgency" of the deal.

The news that an avowed climate change denier had captured the US White House stunned participants arriving Wednesday at the 12-day talks in Marrakesh, which run from November 7 to 18.

"There are two types of reaction: worry and determination to forge ahead," said Segolene Royal, France's foreign minister.

Delegates from several countries have taken a "wait-and-see" attitude after the victory by the New York real estate developer, who has said that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

"We need to assess the situation when the new government comes into office," in January 2017, said Chen Zhihua, a delegate from China's National Development and Reform Commission. "There are too many uncertainties ahead."

- 'Wait and see' -

Shigeru Ushio, a negotiator from Japan's foreign ministry, also said his country would "wait and see" whether Trump's climate policies will differ from his campaign rhetoric.

But if the United States reneges on a committment to give poor countries 2.5 billion dollars (2.3 billion euros) to help them cope with climate impacts, he added, "that would cause difficulties."

Under the Paris pact, rich countries have pledged at least 100 billion dollars a year starting in 2020.

In annex to the treaty, nations have also submitted voluntary pledges to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous global warming.

The agreement commits nations to collectively capping Earth's average temperature increase at under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

With 1.0C (1.8F) of warming to date, the world has already seen an uptick in deadly storms, droughts, heatwaves and flooding.

Mezouar has not yet reached out to Trump or his team, he told AFP.

"As the president of COP22" -- the acronym for the 22nd meeting of the Conference of the Parties -- "I am waiting with impatience to encounter the new American administration," he told AFP.

"I have absolutely no doubt ... that the United States will pursue its commitments alongside the rest of the international community."

- More ambitious pledges -

A report Thursday by three research groups, however, said the US was likely to miss its emissions reduction targets without new climate policies -- which Trump has promised he would not put in place.

Experts and diplomats here insist that the global market-based transition from a fossil fuels to clean energy is too far advanced to peel back.

But Trump's ascension has shaken hard-won political unity at the UN forum.

This uncertainty makes Mezouar's role even more crucial, said Liz Gallagher, an analyst at London-based thinktank E3G.

"The Moroccans need to be more proactive in driving the process, using all the diplomatic tools at their disposal, to make sure we get a clear outcome," she told AFP.

On Friday, ministers from a dozen nations and negotiating blocs -- including France, Germany, Mexico, Bangladesh, the European Union, and the group of Least Developed Countries -- issued a joint statement affirming their resolve.

"Our commitment to be climate leaders remains steadfast, as is our commitment to work with the whole international community, including the United States," they said.

National carbon-cutting plans submitted under the Paris Agreement go into effect in 2020.

Some ministers arriving next week for a high-level session will announce more ambitious pledges, which still fall far short of what is needed to stave off devastating climate impacts.


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The United States will likely fail to meet its pledges under the landmark Paris climate pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, analysts said Thursday on the margin of UN climate talks. Even if president-elect Donald Trump does not reverse policies already put in place by Barack Obama - and that is a big 'if' - US emissions of heat-trapping gases would remain stable over the next 15 years ... read more


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