COP22: UN climate gathering falls under Trump shadow

By A. Adam Glenn

In the news: President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise election victory has unsettled a major global warming treaty, just as diplomats gather at a major United Nation’s climate meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. During his campaign, Trump threatened to “cancel” U.S. participation in last year’s Paris climate agreement, which went into effect Nov. 4. More than 100 nations are taking part, among them the United States.

Back story: Beginning Nov. 15, heads of state and high-level ministers will convene in Marrakesh for the Conference of Parties to the overarching United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as COP22. The Marrakesh meeting, which began formally Nov. 7, was seen as an opportunity to flesh out the details of the Paris Agreement, which committed nations to significant reductions in carbon emissions. The Paris deal also provided financing for poorer nations to adopt clean energy technology and adaptation measures. Now the stakes have been raised considerably.

Adaptation angle: Trump’s 100-day action plan once he takes office includes a pledge to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.” The financing was a pillar of the Paris Agreement, viewed by frustrated leaders of developing nations as a measure of commitment by developed countries to address decades of carbon pollution responsible for impacts like sea-level rise, drought and severe weather. Rich nations had promised to expand $10 billion earmarked for the fund in 2014 to $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020. The United States had pledged $3 billion in the first round, although it has only made $500 million available so far. The rest of the U.S. funding is now in question, causing widespread unease among nations party to the agreement.

Questions to ask

  • What might diplomats in Marrakesh do to push back against anti-treaty sentiment from the incoming president? Will a controversial effort dubbed the "Marrakesh Call" succeed in committing signatories to more aggressive climate action? Will there be an announcement from the so-called “high ambition coalition” that had pushed for a tougher plan in Paris? And what high-level political statements may come from heads of state and ministers, such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who plans to make a major speech Monday after arriving at the summit?
  • How would a Trump administration act on its pledge to back out of the Paris Agreement? Will it take a fast route by issuing a presidential order deleting the U.S. signature, pulling out of the overarching framework convention established in 1992, or simply neglecting to carry out U.S. emission reduction commitments and funding pledges? Or will it formally withdraw from the Paris treaty, which is a several-year process?
  • What might world leaders say to Trump about climate change as he prepares to take office? What about outgoing U.N. chief Ban-ki Moon, who has expressed confidence Trump will distance himself from his campaign rhetoric?
  • Will business leaders who support climate action reach out to the new administration? What about groups representing U.S. and world cities, as well as U.S. states that are already committed to climate action?
  • If the United States does balk at its $3 billion commitment to the Green Climate Fund, would other rich nations raise their contributions to make up the difference?

Reporting resources

Dig deeper on COP22, the Paris Agreement and U.N. adaptation financing using additional resources in the Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation database.

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Posted by A. Adam Glenn on Nov. 16, 2016