At cli­mate talks, it’s Amer­ica alone more than Amer­ica first

Kuwait Times - - Analysis -

Fac­ing 195 other coun­tries who have cho­sen a dif­fer­ent path, the task of US ne­go­tia­tors at up­com­ing cli­mate talks in Bonn is un­en­vi­able. Don­ald Trump has vowed to exit the Paris Cli­mate ac­cord, just not yet, leav­ing US pol­icy in limbo for the next three years un­til Wash­ing­ton can of­fi­cially leave. So, it falls to Thomas Shan­non - a re­spected ca­reer diplo­mat - to this week lead a del­e­ga­tion into talks aimed at im­ple­ment­ing an agree­ment the US is set to aban­don.

“It is a strange sit­u­a­tion, I don’t think I have seen any­thing like it in my al­most 30 years of fol­low­ing this process,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, a Wash­ing­ton­based non-profit work­ing on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says it will still turn up, hop­ing to pro­tect Amer­ica’s in­ter­ests and put “Amer­ica first”.

Rather am­bi­tiously, Wash­ing­ton wants to hand­cuff its big­gest geopo­lit­i­cal ri­vals to their com­mit­ments. A White House of­fi­cial told AFP it wants “to en­sure the rules are trans­par­ent and fair, and ap­ply to coun­tries like China and other eco­nomic com­peti­tors to the United States”. But Shan­non and his team might find them­selves on shaky ground. Ben Rhodes, a for­mer aide to pres­i­dent Barack Obama, be­lieves Wash­ing­ton has aban­doned any lever­age it once had. “The rest of the world has no in­cen­tive to make con­ces­sions to the US since we are now en­tirely iso­lated,” he told AFP.

“My ex­pec­ta­tion is that the rest of the world will sim­ply con­tinue within the Paris frame­work and wait and see what hap­pens in the US in 2020. “The dan­ger is that other coun­tries are less am­bi­tious in their own com­mit­ments and im­ple­men­ta­tion plans be­cause they have the ex­cuse of the US leav­ing,” he added. Next elec­tion

Many del­e­gates will be hop­ing that by a Nov 4, 2020 dead­line - one day after the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion Trump ei­ther backs down or a new pres­i­dent has em­braced the agree­ment. Ei­ther sce­nario is en­tirely pos­si­ble. The White House has given it­self am­ple wig­gle room, say­ing the United States in­tends to with­draw “un­less the pres­i­dent can iden­tify terms that are more fa­vor­able to Amer­i­can busi­nesses, work­ers, and tax­pay­ers”.

That leaves open a broad range of pos­si­bil­i­ties that would not wreck the deal, in­clud­ing scal­ing back Obama’s national plan to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 26-28 per­cent by 2025 com­pared to 2005 lev­els. But for now, the most sup­port­ive Amer­i­can voices come from out­side the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the cities, states and com­pa­nies, many of whom will likely im­ple­ment their re­quire­ments re­gard­less.

Bil­lion­aire for­mer New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is on the front line of the Paris ac­cord’s cheer­lead­ers, de­ter­mined to help meet US com­mit­ments what­ever the po­si­tion of the White House. “That’s kind of a new plot here,” said Meyer. “You did not have that kind of force in place when pres­i­dent Bush an­nounced he was with­draw­ing from Ky­oto in 2001.” The key ques­tion is whether they can keep the flame alive for an­other three years.

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