Uncertainty over America’s future in the climate-rescue Paris Agreement loomed large over UN talks that opened in Bonn Monday to work out the nuts and bolts of implementing the hard-fought international deal.
US President Donald Trump has yet to announce whether he intends keeping a campaign promise to withdraw Washington from the pact in whose birth his predecessor, Barack Obama, was instrumental.
The 11-day Bonn haggle is meant to start drafting a “rulebook” to guide member countries in the practical execution of the pact, which seeks to brake global warming by curbing fossil fuel emissions.
But the negotiations risk being overshadowed by fears that the world’s number two carbon polluter will withdraw and throw the entire process into disarray.
The US did send a delegation to the talks, though smaller than in previous years.
Delegation head Trigg Talley, who represented the US under Obama, declined to answer questions on the team’s new brief.
Earlier, a State Department official said: “We are focused on ensuring that decisions are not taken at these meetings that would prejudice our future policy, undermine the competitiveness of US businesses, or hamper our broader objective of advancing US economic growth and prosperity.”
Obama and China’s Xi Jinping led a diplomatic push which saw the deal sealed in the French capital in 2015, after years of tough bartering.
Some fear a US withdrawal from the agreement would dampen enthusiasm among other signatories for ramping up national emissions-cutting targets.
Current pledges place the world on track for average global warming of around three degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels – far above the limit of two degrees Celsius targeted in the Paris deal.
The Trump administration has already proposed slashing funds for the UN climate science panel, for the Green Climate Fund that helps poor countries combat global warming, and for the UN climate forum under whose auspices the negotiations take place.
However, There has been a chorus of appeals from US and foreign business leaders, politicians and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for Washington not to abandon the agreement.
On Monday, 200 global investors managing more than $15tn in assets, urged the G7 rich country group, which includes the US, to “stand by their commitments to the Paris Agreement.”