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UN climate talks wrap up under threat of US exodus

UN climate talks wrap up under threat of US exodus

BONN: UN climate talks conclude in Bonn Thursday with delegates putting on a brave face despite the threat of an American exodus hanging over their prized global pact to stem global warming.

Envoys from nearly 200 country signatories to the Paris Agreement kept a close eye on Washington throughout their 10-day huddle for any signal about President Donald Trump’s intentions.

On the campaign trail, Trump had threatened to “cancel” the hard-fought pact in which his predecessor, Barack Obama, played an instrumental role in dragging over the finish line in 2015.

On the second day of the May 8-18 Bonn talks, the White House announced the postponement of a meeting to discuss America’s future in the deal, compounding the uncertainty.

A historically small US delegation at the annual round of technical negotiations was thus also left in the dark.

“I personally have met with the head of the (US) delegation a couple of times and... he’s just very open in repeating: ‘Our position is under review’,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said on Thursday.

But negotiators insisted that work progressed on outlining a nuts-and-bolts “rule book” for implementing the agreement’s goals, despite the ever-present “Sword of Damocles”, as one put it.

Many commented that the mood was a positive one, and said the American delegation participated in the talks, though cautiously.

There is the fear that whatever progress is made now can easily be swept off the table when the negotiators get together next, perhaps encountering a new US team with a different brief.

“The rest of the world must continue to work towards progress together,” said Nazhat Shameem Khan of Fiji, who will preside over the next ministerial-level round of climate talks in November.

“We shouldn’t give up because one of the community, one of the family, has decided that they will not walk with us.”

Observers pointed to the importance of upcoming meetings of the G7 and G20, strategic country groupings of which the US is a member, in putting pressure on Trump, who has described climate change as a “hoax” perpetrated by China.

There are fears in some quarters that an American withdrawal may encourage others to follow suit, or at least harm the collective will, built up over two decades of tough negotiations, to act on climate change.

The Paris Agreement commits signatories to limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.—AFP

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