Trump Acting as ‘Bully’ on Climate Galvanizes Work at UN Talks

President Donald Trump’s threat to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change has catalyzed envoys from much of the rest of the world working to give the deal a boost at United Nations talks in Germany this week.

Diplomats from more than 190 nations gathered in Bonn are due Thursday to conclude two weeks of discussions putting finer details on measures agreed in Paris in 2015 to curb the pollution behind global warming. 

Known for bickering over fine details and recurring divisions between richer and poorer nations over how to pay for the impact of warmer temperatures, the envoys have been unusually cooperative in reaching a deal this week, delegates and observers gathered in Bonn said.

“We’re very concerned about what’s going to happen if the U.S. pulls out,,” William Calvo, adjunct chief negotiator at Costa Rica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview. “However, we’re all together on this. You can see in the room — we’re together, we’re working. Things are moving.”

Their willingness to cooperate may be driven by the potential for the richest nation at the talks to withdraw from the deal. Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and vowed to scrap Paris, though his advisers are divided on the issue and the administration hasn’t yet confirmed its policy. In the absence of a new stance from the U.S., the UN envoys are moving forward. 

“We’re actually not preparing for that, and we’re rather hoping they stay in the talks,” said Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations climate change chief, in an interview in Bonn on Wednesday. “We know that we need to wait and see what kind of decisions are taken.”

On Thursday the European Union said it would contribute 800 million euros ($890 million) as part of a partnership with 79 nations from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States to support the Paris Accord.

“We, developed and developing countries together, will defend the Paris Agreement,” Miguel Arias Canete, European commissioner for climate action and energy, said in an emailed statement about the partnership. “We are all in, and our joint commitment to this agreement today is as in Paris: irreversible and non-negotiable.”

As they adjourn on Thursday, the envoys are likely to agree on:

  • The outline of draft negotiation text for the “Paris rulebook,” a set of guidelines for implementing the 2015 deal. This would be a sort of operating manual for countries on how to use the agreement to advance climate action over the coming decades.
  • Preparations for a global stocktaking of emissions in 2018, known as the Facilitative Dialogue. This is a key moment that will help countries get ready for 2020 when they are required to submit more ambitious climate action plans.
  • Work toward a two-year budget for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will affect support from the secretariat for the talks.

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