International Climate Talks Advance Despite U.S. Indecision

The international negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change continued this week—even as the world’s largest cumulative emitter threatened to withdraw from the talks. Trump continues to treat participation in the Paris Agreement as a bargaining chip for the upcoming G7 meeting in Italy. Despite that, the international talks to advance the Paris Agreement and to tackle the global risks from climate change have continued undeterred in Bonn, Germany. Countries reported on their progress in reducing emissions and transforming their energy systems. Negotiators continued designing the rules for reporting on national climate action and future commitments. And the world’s most vulnerable countries reminded us that no country can be “great” without increased climate action.

Trump’s Misinformed Stance on Paris Will Not Stall Global Climate Negotiations

In a Pennsylvania rally, Trump claimed that the Paris Agreement would cost the U.S. trillions of dollars. He was quoting inaccurate far-right activists funded by fossil fuel lobbyists. Trump and Pruitt have falsely claimed that China and India are not doing a fair share on climate action. Analysts who examine the evidence have found that China and India are taking far more ambitious climate action than the U.S. under Trump. So, despite the false excuses Trump is regurgitating for abandoning the Paris Agreement, countries have stood firm in pushing forward on the negotiations and domestic climate action. So, what happened at the climate talks?

Countries Showcased Their Best Climate Initiatives

Through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries report on their climate initiatives and the progress made in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. At this round of talks, dozens of countries gave updates on their domestic climate policies and pace of emissions reductions. For example, France presented on its national law on energy transition—whose goals include a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels, and an increase in renewable energy to 40 percent of energy production by 2030. India has increased its solar power capacity by 81 percent since last year and is on track to meet its climate commitments for 2030 under the Paris Agreement. To tackle climate change, India has already introduced a tax on coal, energy efficiency measures for the most energy-intensive sectors, building energy codes, large-scale conversion to LED lighting and many other initiatives. These policies being implemented in India and elsewhere show that nations are doing a whole lot more than “nothing”—which is a reality check against the misinformation that Trump and his EPA administrator Pruitt are spreading. In another sign of the U.S.'s continued backsliding on climate action, the U.S. presentation on our climate initiatives mainly highlighted the areas where the new Administration was revoking domestic initiatives.

Negotiations Continue on the “Rule-Book” for Global Climate Action

The negotiators in attendance representing nearly 200 countries worked to hash out the detailed rules for implementing the Paris Agreement. These include rules on how countries report on their emissions reductions, how they report on their climate targets and plans for updating the targets regularly, how financial flows are reported, the adaptation plans to reduce the impacts and risks of climate change, and many other areas. One of the reasons that the United States should remain in the Paris Agreement is, (ironically—given Trump's stance on Paris), to make sure that there are strong rules and transparency in reporting on the climate actions that other nations are taking. That way, politicians (like Trump) cannot roll back the climate policies that the majority of Americans support, by using the false excuse that other nations are not acting. A strong system of reporting national climate initiatives and targets provides assurances that all countries are doing their share on climate action, and that the United States or any other country cannot fabricate excuses for retreating from climate action.

Most Vulnerable Countries Reiterate the Urgency of Action

In the final days of the talks, the Climate Vulnerable Forum called for greater ambition. The CVF represents the four dozen developing countries most vulnerable to climate change. Emmanuel M. De Guzman, Commissioner of the Climate Change Commission for the Philippines, made it clear: “Without increased climate action, no country will be great again.”

Guzman also emphasized the fact that U.S. inaction was not acceptable and would be met with resistance: “[W]e will be promoting an unprecedented new global drive for accelerated climate action that we are certain would overwhelm any isolated effort to undermine the Paris Agreement.”