Urgent pleas to Donald Trump at UN climate talks

A polar bear testing the strength of thin sea ice in the Arctic.
A polar bear testing the strength of thin sea ice in the Arctic. PHOTO: AFP

MARRAKESH (AFP) - The leader of Fiji, whose nation is being resculpted by rising seas, pleaded Friday with Donald Trump to join the fight against global warming.

Invoking World War II, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama urged the United States to play its part in rescuing his Pacific island state - and the world at large - from climate change.

"You came to save us then, it is time for you to help to save us now," he said before the 196-nation assembly.

Bainimarama invited the US president-elect - who has repeatedly called global warming a hoax - to visit Fiji to see for himself the devastating impact of climate-fuelled cyclones and storm surges.

Moroccan foreign minister and conference president Salaheddine Mezouar made a similar plea on the final day of the high-level UN talks tasked with implementing the landmark Paris Agreement.

"We count on your pragmatism and your spirit of commitment," he said when asked if he had a message for Trump.

The UN climate forum was stunned to see an avowed climate change denier capture the White House, and the shadow of his victory hung over the 12-day meeting, which gavelled through a work plan Friday night for implementing the Paris pact.

Trump's "100-day action plan" includes scrapping the hard-won deal, which entered into force earlier this month, in record time for a treaty.

Ministers and diplomats, however, insist a Trump administration cannot derail the massive momentum of the global transition to a low-carbon economy, already well under way.

"Not one country has said that if Trump pulls the US out of the Paris Agreement they will follow him," said Alden Meyer, a veteran climate analyst at the Washington-based Union of Climate Scientists.

The BASIC group of Brazil, South Africa, India and China said in a statement they would "continue and strengthen" their own actions, while stressing "there can be no backtracking on commitments from developed countries and no attempt to renegotiate the terms of the agreement reached in Paris".

But if Trump acts on his promises, the consequences could still be severe.

"The chances of the rest of the world contributing the emissions reductions commitments that the US is required to undertake, or covering the shortfall in climate finance," are slim, said analyst Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid.

"That is scary," he told AFP.

Highlighting the stakes, US government scientists said this week that the first 10 months of the year were the hottest in modern times - and 2016 would likely surpass 2015 as the warmest year on record.

The Paris pact seeks to hold nations to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Voluntary national pledges to slash CO2 emissions, a by-product of burning fossil fuels, falls dangerously short of that goal.

On current trends, average global temperatures are set to top 3 C (5.6 F) by the century's end, a recipe for massive human misery, scientists say.

A key aim of the Marrakesh talks was to lay the groundwork for ramping up - country-by-country - the pace of the global transition from dirty to clean energy.

The next "political moment" when countries will be under pressure to increase their carbon-cutting ambition is the UN summit in 2018, to be held in Poland, it was announced Friday.

The other key objective was to rally hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries hit first and hardest by climate impacts, despite having made a negligible contribution to the problem.

"The issue of finance is very much unfinished business from Paris," said Tracy Carty, an expert from Oxfam who tracks the issue.

Rich nations unveiled earlier this month a "roadmap" projecting that financing from public and private sources is on track to meet a pledge of at least $100 billion (94 billion euros) a year from 2020.

But developing nation recipients have contested the roadmap's figures, saying current climate-specific aid is only half to a quarter of the amount claimed.

Of that, only a sliver is for adapting to climate impacts - drought, heat waves, flooding - already under way, a high priority for the world's poorest regions, according to Oxfam.

"It looks like the issue is being kicked down the road to the next COP," said Carty, using the acronym for the annual Conference of the Parties to global efforts to stop climate change.

Mezouar announced that the next high-level climate meet would take place next year in Bonn, Germany, with Fiji presiding.