Climate vulnerable nations alarmed over potential US exit from Paris pact

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Inquirer, Marrakesh

MARRAKESH — As the UN climate negotiations entered high-level talks here on Nov 15th, developing countries raised concerns over the possible withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement.

Top officials from islands that could be submerged in water due to sea level rise and storm surge see Washington’s potential cancellation of the climate deal as a huge drawback to efforts to work together on climate change.

“Certain recent events in America may not aid efforts on climate change,” Micronesia President Peter M. Christian said at the opening of the high-level ministerial meeting, referring to the threat of newly-elected President Donald Trump to nullify the US’s ratification of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement entered into force on Nov. 4 less than a year after 196 countries adopted it on Dec 12, 2015. The legally-binding pact requires developed and developing nations to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

It also states that developed countries must lead the way in the doing so. They are also mandated to extend financial and technological assistance to developing countries so the latter can strengthen mitigation and adaptation actions.

Trump, a climate skeptic, said in his campaign though that the US will pull out from the deal if ever he wins. The US, the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, has said in its nationally determined contribution that it will reduce emissions by 28 percent on 2005 levels by 2025.

This pronouncement “causes uncertainty,” Kiribati president Taneti Maamau said, especially as the implementation of the Paris Agreement begins. “Like any other emitters, it has many roles to play.”

Maamau said the success of the Paris Agreement can only be achieved if all countries work together to uphold it. “We look to the US to take leadership global family to address this challenge.”

Christian, on the other hand, expressed more optimism. He said that the possible pulling-out of US from the Paris Agreement is “just another challenge.”

“Challenges make us stronger. It must not deter us from work to proceed on what we agreed to in Paris.”

These remarks join the chorus of apprehension and dismay first expressed by affluent countries at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) hosted by Morocco.  Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Europe should impose a carbon tax on American imports.

China, a developing country whose road to industrialization has propelled it to be the world’s top emitter, said on the other hand that they are ready to step up and increase their role in climate governance.

COP22 has been touted as the “Action COP” as it marks the start of the implementation of the Paris climate deal; the election of Trump on Nov.8, however, has cast a shadow of doubt on the direction of climate actions.

Maamau said though that countries must still continue to do what they can to avert catastrophic climate change and stop global temperature from going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.

He added that this is a collective effort, one that will also benefit all. “No one is left behind.”