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The ongoing climate change conference in Marrakesh was supposed to be a celebration of all the remarkable achievements made in the last one year. Instead, it has been forced to keep worrying about the prospects of a US pull-out from the Paris Agreement, potentially unravelling all the work that has gone on for the last one decade in creating a global architecture to fight climate change.
The election of Donald Trump on November 8 US presidential elections has completely hijacked the attention of the Marrakesh conference, which, in any case, was scheduled to perform a rather mundane task of framing rules and guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement that was signed in the French capital at the same conference last year. There has been no end to speculations on the future of the Paris Agreement and the larger international climate change framework following the US election result, or the route that the Trump administration would take to walk out of these.
Most of the questions in press conferences, and to delegates in general, are related to implications of a US pull-out. At one such press conference on Saturday, following repeated questions, Morocco’s foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar, who is presiding over the Marrakesh meeting, had to, slightly irritatingly, say that one party withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would not nullify the agreement itself.
Many others have expressed the hope that Trump as President would be different from what he was during the campaign when he described climate change as “Chinese hoax” and promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, if elected. But the questions have refused to go away amidst reports that Trump was planning to include known climate denialists in his transition team.
On Monday, at the start of the second week of the two-week negotiations, the current US administration under Barack Obama, which has invested a huge amount of political and diplomatic capital in securing the Paris Agreement, seemed to upbraid the incoming administration on its perceived climate policy. US Special Envoy on Climate Change Jonathan Pershing said his country would be in danger of being left behind if it decided to pull out of the global climate arrangement.
Pershing said representatives of other countries had told him that they would continue to move ahead on their chosen low-carbon trajectories irrespective of Trump’s decision on climate change.
“China intends to move forward. It doesn’t surprise me, frankly. The deal, the (Paris) agreement was struck on the basis of national circumstances, and agreements by nations are about activities in their own interests. Of course, they (other countries) are going to move forward. These are things that they will do because they are part of their development trajectory. I am hearing the same from the Europeans, Brazilians, Mexicans and other smaller countries like Costa Rica which I have spoken to. I don’t think the US (government) change is going to affect the development pathways of others,” Pershing said.
“It was a global effort that made the (Paris) agreement possible… Heads of States can and will change, but I am confident that we can and we will sustain a durable international effort to counter climate change,” he said.
Climate NGOs, who have been the most distraught at the US election results, have already had several strategy sessions to discuss the possibilities in the event of a US pull-out. On Monday evening, there were fresh buzz at the conference venue that Trump may announce his decision to walk out of the Paris Agreement this week itself.