Election of climate science denier Donald Trump could speed up talks to preserve elements of the Paris agreement.
By Graham Readfearn
“People were walking around looking pretty shellshocked,” says Dr Bill Hare, perched on a chair in the cavernous media tent at the United Nations climate talks in Morocco. “If you hugged an American there was a good chance they’d burst into tears.”
Donald Trump’s triumph in the US elections cast a shadow over the first week of the 22nd round of talks here in Marrakech. The president-elect has pledged to pull the US out of the global climate agreement – signed by all countries in Paris last year to keep global warming “well below 2C”.
Trump thinks the whole climate change issue is little more than a hoax.
Hare, an Australian climate scientist, is ever-present at these talks. He hugged a few Americans last week. He has advised governments and ministers around the world, most recently through his Berlin-based not-for-profit policy institute, Climate Analytics.
But beyond the shock of electing a climate science denier for president, Hare says the material impact on the talks has been minor. “Has [Trump’s victory] visibly affected the negotiations? Not really, no, it hasn’t. Momentum has continued.”
At Paris, the task on hand was clear. Get all the countries around the world – from the poorest to the richest, the cleanest to the dirtiest – to agree on a plan to keep global warming well below 2C.
But in Marrakech the objectives for the two-week talks are far more opaque. They involve agreeing the “rulebook” to turn the Paris deal from a set of inadequate national targets to a tool to increase ambition over the coming years.
Hare says one impact of a pending Trump administration could be to speed things up, rather than slow them down. Instead of pushing some agenda items on to next year, there was “some manoeuvring” to get as much done as possible before Trump takes over.
There has been a flurry of activity at the start of the second week, with major reports released as political leaders begin to arrive for the “high-level segment” of the talks. There has been much number crunching.
The Global Carbon Project unveiled its annual detailed look at the global emissions of greenhouse gases.
Emissions in 2015 from burning fossil fuels and making cement were 36.3bn tonnes, the same as 2014. This “plateau” was mostly down to a slowdown in China.
Hare’s Climate Analytics also released a report looking at what the Paris agreement means for the coal power industry.
The report says practically every coal power plant in the world will need to be switched off by 2050 to avoid global warming of 1.5C. Add only 10 years for a target of 2C.
The report says there are about 1,082 coal power plants being planned around the world, effectively locking in dirty energy production for at least 40 more years.
Hare told a press conference: “It’s pretty clear that the coal plans that some countries have are quite inconsistent with the Paris agreement.”
There is “no rationale” for building any new coal plants, the report says. Even some new plants, only just built, would need to be turned off early.
The World Meteorological Organization released a provisional statement on global temperatures, declaring that 2016 was “very likely” to beat 2015 as the hottest on record.
Omar Baddour, senior scientific coordinator at WMO, was in meetings with delegates last week outlining the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate.
From increasing levels of drought and heatwaves to rising sea levels and Arctic ice melt, Baddour has been telling negotiators that “all the indicators are red”.
“The message to them is that there’s no time for reflection,” he tells me. “The facts are there. Now it’s time for action. You can’t negotiate with the laws of physics.”
You can bet, though, that while negotiating with physics can’t be done, Trump would give it a go.
Press link for more: The Guardian