Opinion: Marrakesh conference won′t let Trump get in the way | Opinion | DW | 19.11.2016
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Opinion: Marrakesh conference won't let Trump get in the way

The focus at the UN climate conference shifted dramatically with Donald Trump's election as president. This new dynamic has bound climate protection activists even closer together, writes DW's Jens Thurau from Marrakesh.

At the end of the summit there was a photo in which state representatives, financial experts and climate protectors were united. The message behind the picture was clear: "You can't intimidate us; we are well on the way to a fossil free future, even without you." Of course, this was referring to Donald Trump, who alternates between calling climate change an invention of the Chinese or something made up by the "eco-mafia."

China has understood the problem for a long time.

China, one of the world's biggest sources of carbon pollution, is a noteworthy topic. For years, many considered China to be an inhibiting factor at climate conferences and thought that the Chinese only conceded something if the imperialist class enemy in Washington did so as well. Geopolitical games were played out at climate conferences. Beijing (like India, Brazil, South Africa and most of the European states) has, however, recognized that protecting the climate is in the country's own interests. The falling price of renewables and investors' decisions not to use coal have contributed to this change of heart, along with the awareness that the consequences of climate change within the country itself can no longer be denied. Nor can the fact that it is cheaper to swiftly take action against greenhouse gases than to deal with the consequences later. It seems as if it is only Donald Trump who doesn't get it.

Weltklimakonferenz in Marrakesch Jens Thurau (DW/F. Nusch)

DW reporter Jens Thurau.

So now the climate caravan will be moving on, without Washington. It remains to be seen whether Trump cancels the Paris climate deal, or even the Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, which has been the foundation of all climate resolutions. For the time being, the USA will not be taking a lead in dealing with climate change.

While the world has been focusing on the US elections, another trend has been taking shape in Marrakesh. In the wake of the euphoric Paris conference last year, participants must now set about organizing and defining the next steps in greater detail. The new climate agreement will not go into effect until 2020, as its construction is complicated and all states must take part in climate protection. In some countries, there are only a handful of people who are working on it. They need help in finding funding and building trust. That is what industrial nations - and Europe more than ever since the US elections - are responsible for. Germany understands this issue. The German government has put another 50 million euros on the table for climate change. The last conference day was somewhat embarrassing for Germany when 45 poor nations quickly vowed not to use the money. Germany's much discussed climate plan, which is only a statement of intent, will take until the middle of the next century to greatly reduce carbon emissions.

Marrakesch - COP22 Malerei eines Polarbärs (L. Osborne)

A painting of a polar bear in the civil society zone of COP22

Excursions to a showcase project

Otherwise, the climate conference has dropped its alarmist attitude. That is probably because people can really see what the often-ridiculed climate conferences have accomplished since Rio in 1992. During the two weeks of the Marrakesh conference, entire delegations made a pilgrimage to Ouarzazate, 200 km south of Marrakesh, where the largest solar power station in the world is being built – not in Germany, not in the USA, but yes, in Morocco. The African continent has long been a utopia for climate protectors, who envision that African development could skip fossil fuel industrialism altogether and go straight to the solar future. It is still a difficult endeavor but it is conceivable. And dealing with tedious tasks at climate conferences has contributed to this moment.

The work continues to go on – right now without the USA but in the long term most likely with Washington again. How does that saying go? Good politics begin with the recognition of reality? Some people clue in faster than others.

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