US Election Trumps All Other Matters

Su-Kim M | November 9, 2016.

There was no doubt that the third day of COP22 in Marrakech would have an interesting start with the results of the 2016 US Presidential Election due for announcement. News broke in the early hours of the morning that Donald Trump has won. In an unexpected victory, that could spell disastrous environmental consequences, the day was swept away with emotions running high for many.

There was no shortage of statements, with everyone from the union moment to NGOs normally as divergent as the US Climate Action Network, Friends of the Earth International and the WWF preaching similar messages of hope and confidence in the resilience of the Paris Agreement.

With over one hundred countries ratifying the Paris Agreement, most recently the Australian government: “It is clear that the Paris momentum will continue no matter who the president of the US is,” says Ulriikka Aarnio, the international climate policy coordinator for Climate Action Network Europe.

Legally, it will be difficult for Trump to fulfil his election promise, within his four-year term, to “cancel” the Paris Agreement, as an official notice to withdraw must be submitted prior to the process commencing in another four years.

Domestically, the same cannot be said, and Aarnio notes that: “There is a risk for the US, to miss the boat in a race to a renewable future.”

Despite the looming distraction, business as usual continued with a number of member states, as well as COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar, choosing to congratulate Donald Trump in-session on his election victory.

Which is to say, negotiations have been continuing at a slow pace: something that civil society participants would struggle to confirm. Groups have raised concerns that civil society are being frozen out of negotiations and important meetings, a trend over the last few years. Only a small number (if any) of civil society participants have been allowed into a certain sessions at a time. Restricting access to the negotiations undermines the role civil society can play, including the crucial role of holding governments to account and reiterating the realities of a warmer world.

Those watching webcast, though, saw Saudi Arabia announce Fiji was in discussions to bid for the COP23 Presidency (predetermined to be held by an Asia Pacific member state). The actual conference itself is expected to be held at the UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn, Germany. While an announcement was expected to occur at 6pm on Wednesday, it has been delayed.

On finance, a joint ministerial statement response to the roadmap to the US $100 billion goal, published earlier in October, by developed countries was also issued. Countries’ reaffirmed their commitment to jointly providing $100b per year to climate finance and finding the balance between mitigation and adaptation finance.

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