Climate momentum will continue: US envoy on Trump vote

Jonathan Pershing, Washington's top climate envoy, at the UN World Climate Change Conference 2016 in Marrakesh.
Jonathan Pershing, Washington's top climate envoy, at the UN World Climate Change Conference 2016 in Marrakesh.PHOTO: AFP

MARRAKESH (AFP) - The global drive to stave off disastrous global warming will continue regardless of who heads the US administration, Washington's top climate envoy said on Monday on the election of climate change denier Donald Trump.

"Heads of state can and will change, but I am confident that we can and we will sustain a durable international effort to counter climate change," US special envoy for climate change Jonathan Pershing told journalists on the sidelines of a UN climate conference in Marrakesh.

Before he was elected president last week, Trump called climate change a "hoax" and threatened to "cancel" the hard-fought Paris Agreement concluded in the French capital last December to limit global warming.

Pershing said the "shape and thrust" of the new administration should become clearer in the coming weeks, adding that, "I cannot speak for the President-elect's team or to their outlook on international climate policy." "What I do know, however, is that...parties are deeply invested in seeing this work bear real fruit," he said.

"It was a global effort that made the agreement possible and the passion and the dedication that drove it," was in evidence still, Pershing added.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry made an impassioned plea for America to maintain action on global warming.

"We will wait to see how the next administration addresses this but I believe we're on the right track and this is a track that the American people are committed to," Kerry said on a trip to New Zealand.

Trump's election has cast a long shadow over the Moroccan climate huddle, where envoys must come up with rules for implementing the goals and plans outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The pact seeks to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by cutting down on the use of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas.

The Obama administration had been an ardent champion of the agreement, alongside China.

China's envoy, Xie Zhenhua, stressed on Monday that tackling climate was a "common and shared responsibility".

"International cooperation is a must for us to address climate change," he said in Marrakesh.

Observers say Trump would have three options for pulling out of the process.

He could withdraw from the agreement itself, which would take four years, he could cancel the US' membership of the UN's climate convention and all its treaties, which would take 12 months, or simply ignore the US' emissions targets under the deal, which lists no penalties.

Kerry is to address the Marrakesh meeting on Wednesday.