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Awaiting Trump, Governments Create ‘Worldwide Momentum’ on Climate Change | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Patricia Espinosa speaks during the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

While US President Donald Trump keeps the world dangling on the 2015 Paris Agreement, governments have created “worldwide momentum” to slow climate change, the UN’s climate chief said on Friday.

Trump’s plan for gutting domestic climate change policies is now on the table, but his administration left open Wednesday the question of whether it will turn its back on the landmark Paris Agreement. The 196-nation treaty vows to cap global warming as “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to late 19th-century levels.

Head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Patricia Espinosa said she was watching “with interest” the suspension and review of Barack Obama-era [Former US President] regulations ordered by Trump on Tuesday.

“The Paris Agreement remains a remarkable achievement, universally supported by all countries when it was adopted,” Espinosa wrote in a letter to staff.

Trump, who doubts that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are warming the planet, began undoing Obama’s policies to slow global warming this week in a shift to favor the US coal industry.

Espinosa listed signs of “worldwide momentum” including that “solar power capacity globally grew 50 percent in 2016 led by the United States and China” and that ever more governments were passing laws to curb global warming.

“This governmental momentum continues to be underpinned by companies, investors, cities, regions and territories including now many oil majors whose CEOs have in recent weeks publicly spoken out in support of the Paris Agreement,” she said.

She said the United States was still a member of the agreement and that “we look forwards to welcoming and working with its delegations” at meetings in 2017. Governments are trying to write a rule book to guide implementation.

Many countries, led by China and the European Union, have reaffirmed backing this week for the pact, meant to be the cornerstone of efforts to limit heatwaves, floods, extinctions of animal and plant species and a rise in sea levels.

European Union Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action Miguel Arias Canete affirmed Europe’s commitment to the agreement, saying: “The world can count on Europe to maintain global leadership in the fight against climate change,” said

Also, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said his country “will honor its obligations 100 percent.”

Both powers, experts note, are eager to fill any void created by the United States, especially in the burgeoning market for renewables driving the transition from dirty to clean energy.