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Brave faces at climate talks despite Trump win

Moroccan foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar
Moroccan foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar

Marrakesh, Morocco | AFP | 

The host of global climate talks insisted Saturday that Donald Trump’s election has not cast a cloud over the negotiations tasked with translating the landmark Paris climate pact into reality.

Moroccan foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar put on a brave face as the talks hit the half-way point, saying they remained on track for the arrival next week of some 60 heads of state.

“No, the election of Donald Trump does not hover over this COP anymore,” said Mezouar, using the acronym for the Conference of the Parties meeting in Marrakesh.

He noted that countries including China have reaffirmed their commitments to the 196-nation Paris Agreement, which was inked in December and entered into force last week, record time for an international treaty.

The tally of ratifications has hit 105, with new ones added almost daily, said Mezouar, the president of the forum.

Also on Saturday, Germany presented a plan to purge up to 95 percent of the CO2 from its economy by mid-century, a voluntary step other major carbon emitters have also pledged to take.

“The work is going very well,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa told journalists, adding that technical committees would finish up in time for the arrival of presidents and ministers next Tuesday.

But the elephant in the room remained, despite efforts to ignore or banish it.

“The president-elect removed from his website the section concerning the Paris Agreement, which is a good sign,” said the Moroccan minister.

A page posted on did briefly disappear, but apparently only for technical reasons.

The promise oft repeated during the campaign — that has deeply shaken the UN talks — is in fact still there, black-on-white.

“We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement,” it reads, presented as part of Trump’s 100-day action plan.

His administration will also “stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs,” it says.

‘We are waiting’ 

The Obama administration promised $3 billion (2.8 million euros) to a special fund for poor nations already feeling the lash of climate-enhanced extreme weather, from superstorms to droughts to heatwaves.

So far, however, the US has only ponied up $500,000 (460,000).

A senior US official — the first to comment publicly here since the election — counselled a “wait-and-see” attitude.

“We should not just assume what is going to happen,” said Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment.

“We have one president at a time. We are going to have to see how things develop,” she added, echoing statements from many other delegates over the last three days.

Morocco’s environment minister, meanwhile, expressed confidence that Trump would come around, pointing out that he has already reversed himself on other issues such as health care.

“I think that competition worldwide will push them to change their position,” she told AFP, referring to the breakneck development of renewable energy around the world.

“Americans are the ones who went to the moon. They should also be the ones who create this revolution — and it is a revolution.

“We heard the candidate. We have not yet heard the President. We are waiting,” she added.

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

In an 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.

The 12-day talks run until November 18.

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