MARRAKECH (MOROCCO): Daylight broke in the ochre city with the news of Donald Trump’s decisive victory in the US elections. Trump’s victory came as a shock to most, who were prepared for a tight race with the expectation that Secretary Hillary Clinton would make it to the finish line with a slim margin.
Environmental activist Bethany Hindmarsh, 26, cries during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump at the Climate Conference, known as COP22, in Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)
Shock and disbelief marked Bab Ighli, the venue of the UN-sponsored climate meet. Even as delegates sought to retain an air of normalcy virtually every conversation turned to Trump, and what the elevation of a climate denier to the White House meant for the global efforts to tackle climate change.
Throughout his campaign, Trump repudiated climate change. He described it as a Chinese hoax, denied the science, described climate change funding as wasteful. While candidate Trump has been categorical about his views on climate change, it is unclear if as president he will follow through. Observers from the United States and other countries stressed that it was too soon to say what the Trump Administration would do.
This isn’t diplomatic sidestepping of the question. The fact is that it is too early to determine what President-elect Trump will do.
He could well follow through on his promise to pull out from the Paris Agreement, but since the treaty is already in force, the United States is locked in for three years, with another year or so for the process of withdrawal from the treaty. Observers at Marrakech have consistently stressed that US participation in the Paris Agreement is guaranteed for what would be the first term of a Trump presidency.
While the US would continue to be a party to the Paris Agreement, its participation in the process of finalising the rulebook for the treaty would change. Some delegates stressed therefore it was important to agree at Marrakech to complete the rule making process by 2018.
The other cause of concern is the US contribution to climate finance. Trump has said that he would “cancel billions in climate change spending for the United Nations”. The US pledged $3 billion over a four year period to the Green Climate Fund. So far only $500 million has been provided. Republican lawmakers had objected to the pledge made by the Obama administration, arguing that it wasn’t legal as it was done without specific congressional authorization. Providing financial support is one of the key commitments of industrialised countries under the UN Convention on Climate Change, has been reiterated in the Paris Agreement. The Green Climate Fund was set up to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The other cause of concern is in the area of domestic policies. Domestic climate action lies at the heart of the Paris Agreement. This could well mean a reversal of many of the decisions, most of which were carried out through executive orders, of the Obama administration. The Clean Power Plan, which is central to the US national climate action plan. This could well mean that the US doesn’t adhere to commitments made in the national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement, and this would make it difficult to meet the goal of restricting temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.