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US elections cast shadow over UN climate conference in Morocco

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:40 IST

Even as the United States votes for a new President, there are jitters in faraway Morocco. At the UN climate summit at Marrakech, which began on 7 November, the results of the US Presidential elections are informally a part of the agenda for the first few days.

The reason is that Republican nominee Donald Trump had announced that if voted to power, he would withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, which was signed at last year's summit.

The Morocco summit will conclude on 18 November.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement aims to cut down the global rise in average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius. This requires a lot of action from developed countries, especially the US, in terms of cutting consumption, switching to solar power, etc.

Trump has denied the scientific consensus on climate change, and has called it a 'hoax' perpetrated by the Chinese. In a later Presidential debate, he denied he made this claim, but not his denial of climate change.

Impact of potential US withdrawal

If the US does withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it would take effect after four years, so Trump's actions would not hurt immediately. But the summit in Morocco will begin negotiations over the rules and standards that would govern the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Trump's election could cause significant uncertainty about the efficacy of the Agreement, given that the US is the world's second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for 17% of global emissions.

US help is also needed to provide finance and cheap technology to developing countries such as India to transition towards low-carbon emissions. A US withdrawal will also jeopardise the multilateral $100 billion Green Climate Fund, meant to finance low carbon technologies.

Trump had also specifically said that if he is elected, the US will stop funding "UN global warming programmes".

More crucially, Trump's election could cause diplomatic uncertainty at Marrakech. The US has usually played a leadership role in determining the outcome of climate summits, stalling it in Copenhagen in 2009, and helping it get through in Paris in 2015.

"US leadership was critical in getting the Paris Agreement across the finish line," Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, told NBC News. "Many in Marrakech will be watching very closely for the election outcome."

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 8 November 2016, 8:12 IST