A UN climate conference dominated by US president-elect Donald Trump’s threats to withdraw from a hard-won pact concluded in Marrakesh, Morocco, yesterday amid fears that the goal of curtailing worst-case-scenario global warming might not be achieved without US backing.
The first gathering of the UN’s climate forum since last year’s adoption of the Paris Agreement to curtail global warming was tasked with drafting a roadmap for its execution.
It has been overshadowed by uncertainty about Trump’s vow to “cancel” the pact.
On Thursday, the eve of the conference’s closure, the nearly 200 parties to the UN’s climate convention made a rare united appeal for “the highest political commitment to combat climate change.”
“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” they said in the “Marrakesh Action Proclamation.”
“We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority,” they said.
Many fear that Trump, who has described climate change as a “hoax,” will act on his threat to withdraw from the pact, thus ruining years of painstakingly negotiated political goodwill.
A US withdrawal would leave the cause without billions of dollars of finance for developing countries to make the shift to “clean” energy or the means to shore up defenses against effects predicted to arise from climate change.
“There’s no doubt that if Mr Trump makes sharp cuts to the [US] federal government support of developing countries that will be noticed and have an impact,” veteran climate negotiations analyst Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told reporters.
The Paris pact sets the goal of limiting average global warming to 2oC over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by cutting greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
Countries, including the US, have pledged to curb emissions by shifting to sources of renewable energy, but Trump has vowed to boost oil, gas and coal.
Some experts say that warming of more than 2oC would result in sea level rise, worsening storms and droughts, the spread of disease and conflict over resources.
Without the US, delegates and analysts say the goal will be even more difficult to reach.
“The chances of the rest of the world contributing the emissions reductions commitments that the US is required to undertake, or covering the shortfall in climate finance that the US is required to contribute, is unlikely to happen,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, which monitors the climate negotiations on behalf of poor countries.
“That is scary,” he said.
While waiting for the incoming US president to make his climate position clear, many now look to the rest of the world to bolster the Paris Agreement.
In a “high-level segment” of the gathering speakers recommitted their nations to the pact.
On Thursday, the BASIC group of Brazil, South Africa, India and China, said they would “continue and strengthen” their own actions, adding: “There can be no backtracking on commitments from developed countries and no attempt to renegotiate the terms of the agreement reached in Paris.”
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