Regional Actions Seen as Bright Spot at Marrakech Climate Talks

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By Eric J. Lyman

Nov. 10 — Local and regional government initiatives emerged Nov. 10 as bright spots at the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, which has been dominated by worries about the future U.S. role in global efforts to curb carbon emissions after Donald Trump’s presidential election victory.

“Climate action in and by cities, towns and regions will be instrumental in ensuring that we stay on a 2C pathway, aiming for 1.5C,” said Gino Van Begin, secretary-general of the group Local Governments for Sustainability.

The temperature reference is related to the goal in last year’s Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above historic averages. The world’s first worldwide climate pact also included a vow to “pursue efforts” for a more ambitious 1.5-degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) limit.

Nov. 10 was “Cities and Human Settlements” day at the talks, casting a light on a variety of initiatives, including an announcement from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy promising to develop a platform to self monitor climate commitments at the municipal level, and the conclusion of a special dialogue on developing long-term revenue streams for “Financing for Urban Resilience” initiatives.

All told, the initiatives involved more than 1,500 towns, cities and regional governments.

New Projections

On the sidelines of the talks, Climate Action Tracker Nov. 10 released new data showing that even if all countries fulfilled their Paris Agreement pledges, global warming would still rise 2.8 degrees Celsius (5.1 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

“Current pledges to reduce emissions are far too small to keep warming within the 2-degree limit,” said Teresa Anderson, a policy officer for development agency ActionAid International. “But we haven’t seen progress so far in determining how we are going to reduce emissions beyond their current levels.”

The Nov. 8 election in the U.S. of Trump, who has been a vocal skeptic of climate change, continued to reverberate in Marrakech.

Trump Talk

Much of the speculation since Trump’s victory has been about how he might direct the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a process that according to its rules would take four years—a three-year wait before applying to withdraw, and then one year before the withdrawal takes effect.

But another scenario was being discussed: Under Trump, the U.S. could withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change altogether, a step that would take only one year and would carry with it a de facto withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

The main consequences of that move, according to a United Nations legal expert, would be that the U.S. would lose its seat at the negotiating table at future climate change talks.

“Of course, everyone prefers the U.S. remain involved,” the source said, asking not to be further identified. “But if they left, it would not be a surprise if future treaties included, possibly, rules that would make it more complicated or costly to trade with nations outside the framework.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Marrakech, Morocco, at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

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