How has Trump's Paris pullout plan affected climate negotiations in Bonn?

Delegations at the latest round of climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, show that US President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has not weakened their stance to fight climate change

Ping Manongdo

10:12:18am May 11, 2018

10:20:48am May 11, 2018

CLIMATE CHANGE. In this file photo, US President Donald Trump looks on during a rally in Elkhart, Indiana on May 10, 2018. File photo by Saul Loeb/AFP

BONN, Germany – As climate talks in Bonn concluded Thursday, May 10, negotiating countries showed that their work had not been hampered by President Donald Trump's 2017 announcement to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement.

Leading the delegation for the European Union (EU) in the former German capital, Ulrik Lenaerts said the US President's withdrawal plan had "no domino effect whatsoever" on the climate talks.

"No party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) did follow that line," he said, pointing out that no other country has voiced their opposition to the Paris Agreement.

Lenaerts said a draft of the rulebook to implement the historic accord, which is a key outcome from this negotiations round, is starting to take shape.

"I am optimistic the rulebook will be finalized at COP24 in Katowice," he said, referring to the next round of negotiations that will take place in the Polish city in December.

A US Department of State official said in an email that the US continues to participate in the climate negotiations "in order to protect and advance US interests and perspectives, and ensure a level playing field among all countries."

The US and China are co-facilitating the negotiations for the rulebook and the transparency guidelines for reporting progress under the Paris Agreement when its implementation begins in 2020.

According to UNFCCC rules, the US cannot exit the Paris Agreement before November 4, 2020. 

As an effect of Trump's plans to pull out of the accord, experts in Bonn said that his delegation only negotiated on issues they were comfortable with, and ignored those that do not align with the administration's direction, particularly on the use of fossil fuels.

'One hand tied'

Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy for Massachusetts-based non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the US delegation has been working in Bonn with "one hand tied behind their back."

"It's no secret that the US delegation is hamstrung," he said.

Jesse Bragg, media director for US-based corporate watchdog Corporate Accountability, said that the US and fossil fuel interests have tried to stop conflict of interest discussions from advancing.

"Once again, the United States and its pro-fossil fuel allies are on the wrong side of history, putting big polluters before people and the planet. But today's results prove that no amount of obstruction from the US will ultimately prevent this movement from advancing," he said in a statement.

Meyer is confident, however, that while Trump's planned pull-out could be limiting for US negotiatorsthe reverse could be said of US scientists in Bonn and at home.

Amid Trump's proposal to reduce the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency to its lowest level since the early 1990s, and to axe finance for climate-change research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, American scientists are still doing their work to inform policies at the talks in Bonn.

"If anything, it has encouraged scientists to be more vocal than they were because of their disappointment and anger over the position the US administration has taken," Meyer said.

The US continues to be among the world's top 3 emitters – together with China and the European Union (EU) – contributing more than half of global emissions.

Asked about the possibility of Trump changing his mind and sticking with the Paris Agreement, the US State Department official said they do not have any information about this, and that the country will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through investments in renewable energy innovation and technology. 

"Net emissions fell more than 2% last year and are now 12% below 2005 levels. We are growing our economy and ensuring access to secure, affordable, and reliable energy," the official said. – Rappler.com