Donald Trump’s opposition to the fight against global warming could leave the U.S. stuck in the past as countries from Europe, Asia and even the Middle East pursue an energy revolution in which renewables offer a better bang for their buck.
While Trump has promised to “cancel” the Paris deal and stimulate coal production once he takes over as U.S. president in January, others including the European Union, China and Saudi Arabia are vowing to press ahead with actions that will support renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels.
Envoys from more than 190 countries on Friday are due to wrap up two weeks of discussions in Marrakech, Morocco, affirming efforts to clean up the world’s energy supply and limit climate change. They say Trump won’t be able to reverse a drop in the cost of wind and solar power, which is tipping the economics away from the most polluting fuels.
“Trump is isolated,” said Alden Meyer, who has followed the talks for more than two decades for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. “Not one single country has said if Trump pulls the U.S. out of Paris, they will join him in leaving — not one.”
The talks in Marrakech this week were working on a number of technical measures that would help put flesh on the 13-page Paris Agreement, which was sealed in December. Those include:
A rulebook for how the voluntary limits on emissions agreed upon in Paris will be assessed and overseen A Paris Committee on Capacity Building, which will start work in 2017 helping developing nations build their ability to rein in emissions and adapt to climate-related harm A decision to review a “loss and damage” mechanism that would compensate the poorest nations for the worst impacts of climate change A partnership among nations aimed at spurring use of renewable energy A political call in the form of the Marrakech Action Proclamation due to be endorsed by the nations present, emphasizing the group is “more united” than ever on implementing the Paris deal
The meeting, which started last week, is scheduled to finish Friday evening with a detailed statement on what was agreed by consensus among the nations attending.
Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. State Department envoy at the talks, said Thursday afternoon that the bulk of the work in Marrakech is finished and “the remaining discussions are largely procedural.” He declined to speculate what Trump might do, asserting that it’s in the U.S. interest to stick with Paris. His EU counterpart said the U.S. would lose out by renouncing it.
“The world is on the brink of an energy revolution,” European Union Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said at the meeting.
“We will change the way we produce and consume energy,” he said. No matter what the result of the U.S. presidential election, “when you take office, you have to see what the global trends are. If you go against the global trend, you make a mistake.”
Ministers from some of the nations worried that they’ll be submerged by rising seas pleaded with Trump to rethink the pledges he made during his campaign.
“Politics has entered the discussion in a way that has again put our ultimate success in doubt,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, environment minister for the Maldives and chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States. “We can understand the concern and frustration expressed by so many here and around the world that worry what the future may hold.”
Even Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, emphasized its willingness to clean up emissions, ratifying the Paris deal during the talks and highlighting plans it has in place to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels.
“We have developed plans to combat climate change with a view to creating a dynamic economy that no longer relies heavily on oil,” Khalid Al-Falih, minister of energy, industry and mineral resources, said in Marrakech on Wednesday.
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China, which for decades frustrated progress at these talks, emerged as the developing world’s leading advocate for action. Its delegates spoke publicly against Trump’s suggestion that climate change is a hoax aimed at constraining the U.S. economy and expressed concern that the next U.S. administration may sit on the sidelines of the environmental movement as it did when President George W. Bush renounced the Kyoto climate accord in 2001.
“We hope the U.S. will continue to play its role in the climate change process,” China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said in Marrakech. “Of course people worry they will not repeat the experience of the Kyoto Protocol.”
Edna Molewa, the South Africa environment minister, said Paris represented an “irreversible” step for all nations.
“There can be no backtracking on commitments by developed countries and no attempt to renegotiate the terms of the pact that we reached in Paris,” Molewa said, speaking on behalf of her country, China, Brazil and India.
On Wednesday, as outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an impassioned plea for the U.S. to remain in the process, more than 350 businesses, from Kellogg Co. to Nike Inc. issued an open letter to Trump urging support for the Paris Agreement. He suggested Trump may soften his views once he understands the consequences of going against the rest of the world on the issue.
“Some issues look a little bit different when you’re in office than when you’re on the campaign trail,” Kerry said. “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It isn’t a partisan issue for our military. It isn’t a partisan issue for our intelligence community.”