Climate rulebook likely done this year - with or without US

Scientists predict higher frequencies of floods, famines and superstorms unless the world keeps temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius this century.
Scientists predict higher frequencies of floods, famines and superstorms unless the world keeps temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius this century.PHOTO: AFP

VIENNA (BLOOMBERG) - The climate rulebook being drafted to keep a lid on Earth's rising temperatures should be finished by the end of the year - with or without the US government's help.

Countries that ratified the Paris Climate Agreement meet in Poland in December, where they're expected to put the finishing touches on transparency and verification measures ensuring that industries and economies abide by emission rules. It's not yet clear how deeply the world's second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter will engage in the process after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the US from the accord, said the United Nations' top climate official.

"The urgency of the issue, the high expectations that are around the process are putting strong pressure on the parties to really find ways of coming to compromises," Patricia Espinosa said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

"It would be very difficult for any party to bear the responsibility of having obstructed an agreement," she added.

Scientists predict higher frequencies of floods, famines and superstorms unless the world keeps temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius this century. The risks posed by runaway climate change have mobilised trillions of dollars of investments by companies and economies transitioning to renewable energy, electric transport and more efficient technologies.

The US became the only major economy outside the deal in November and has pledged to double down on coal power, the world's biggest source of carbon emissions.

Espinosa, a career diplomat from Mexico who heads the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change, met military and intelligence officials over the weekend at Munich Security Conference. The US could still be a leader in helping to avert the rising threat of climate-induced military conflicts and mass migration.

"I very much hope that we can engage with the US administration, that we can address their concerns, their doubts about the commitments to the Paris Agreement," Espinosa said. "I hope there will be time for reconsideration. We certainly don't want to see them depart from the Paris agreement."

Other countries don't have "any appetite" to reopen negotiations on the Paris accord, Espinosa said. Instead, they're concentrating on the painstaking task of writing the detailed rules that will bind countries to the agreement. One big sticking point continues to be transparency. 

"Some countries say everybody has to comply with the same rules," according to Espinosa. But the costly accounting measures for poorer nations would "take them away from the more fundamental development issues".