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Kerry hopes for Trump climate change shift

November 16, 2016

The top US diplomat didn't pretend to have any inside knowledge of Trump's climate plan, but said issues often look different once in office. One Trump insider said the president-elect remained eager to abandon the deal

USA Texas Symbolbild Klimawandel Dürre
Image: picture-alliance/AP/T. Gutierrez

US Secretary of State John Kerry told an international conference on climate change that President-elect Donald Trump might change his views on the issue once he takes office.

During the campaign, Trump called climate change a hoax that is being perpetrated by China. He also vowed to tear up the 2015 Paris Agreement, cut off all US tax dollars bound for UN global warming programs and jump-start the US coal industry.

Concern about US climate commitments


"While I can't stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue, I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I've learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you're actually in office compared to when you're on the campaign trail," Kerry said.

The US diplomat said failing to fight climate change would be a "moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequences."

He said 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, adding that the impacts of global warming are so evident that "at some point, even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening."

Kerry also said he didn't think US emissions reduction pledges "can or will be reversed" because of the market mechanisms already at work.

Höhne: 'Trump a setback for climate policy'

Supporting Paris accord

Americans know that climate change is happening, Kerry insisted.

"I can't speak for the [next] administration, but I know the American people support this overwhelmingly," Kerry said, referring to the Paris Agreement.

Perhaps more importantly, a growing number of US businesses are recognizing the potential existential threat posed by a warming planet, as well as the economic benefits of combating climate change. More than 300 US businesses - including General Mills, Intel and Unilever - issued a joint statement supporting the Paris accord.

"Implementing the Paris Agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all," the statement said.

While many of Trump's possible policy plans are still unclear, a member of Trump's transition team reaffirmed this week that the president-elect is looking for a quick exit from the Paris accord.

The Paris deal won enough international support to enter into force on November 4, four days before the US election. An ongoing conference in Morocco started, in part, as a celebration of that landmark. 

Climate Agreement: Fighting global warming

For the moment, the United States is moving forward with its program to combat climate change. The administration presented a plan in Marrakesh, which was developed long before Trump's victory, calling for a "deep decarbonization" of the US economy by 2050. It foresees an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels.

Without mentioning the president-elect, the 111-page plan said it was "achievable, consistent with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and an acceleration of existing market trends" that would "require increasingly ambitious decarbonization policies."

But Trump's election raises the real prospect of the United States defaulting on its commitments, being sidelined on global climate policy and watching China lead the way in climate reduction. China and the United States are the world's two top polluting countries. Trump's position has raised doubts among delegates in Marrakesh over whether Washington will continue to be a partner in the agreement.

bik/sms (Reuters, AP)

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