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UN Execs Urge Decisive Climate Action as Bonn Criticisms Focus on Trump

The leaders of three key United Nations agencies are calling for decisive action at this year’s United Nations climate conference that essentially ignores the fulminations of a climate-denying U.S. administration, while the Fijian president of the upcoming meeting urges “absolute dedication” to the 1.5°C long-term target in the 2015 Paris agreement.

“The November UN Climate Conference in Bonn provides an opportunity to not only accelerate emission reductions, but to also boost the serious work of ensuring that the management of climate risk is integrated into disaster risk management,” wrote Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Program, and Robert Glasser, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, in a joint statement.

“Poverty, rapid urbanization, poor land use, ecosystem decline, and other risk factors will amplify the impacts of climate change.”

Climate News Network’s coverage of the joint statement leads off with the severe climate impacts the United States has sustained in recent weeks, and the Trump administration’s extraordinary efforts to deny the mainstream science behind those impacts. The three UN officials point to the “clear consensus” on climate impacts and place the outcome of COP 23 in the broader context of severe weather across the developing world, where they say more than 40 million people have been temporarily or permanently displaced over the last two years.

“The record floods across Bangladesh, India, and Nepal have made life miserable for some 40 million people. More than 1,200 people have died and many people have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and many workplaces have been inundated. Meanwhile, in Africa over the last 18 months, 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with major displacement taking place across the Horn of Africa.”

For least-developed countries, “the impact of disasters can be severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education,” they added. “For developed and middle-income countries, the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive.”

In Oslo, meanwhile, where he was chairing a preparatory meeting ahead of COP 23, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said countries can no longer ignore the climate crisis. “An absolute dedication to meet the 1.5° target is what we need and what we must take to Bonn,” he told delegates. “It’s hard to find any part of the world that is unaffected.”

China President Xi Jinping struck a similar note Wednesday, during the Communist Party congress in Beijing, in remarks that were interpreted as a response to Trump’s persistently belligerent climate denial. “No country alone can address the many challenges facing mankind. No country can afford to retreat into self-isolation,” Xi said. “Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation. Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us. This is a reality we have to face.”

All of which points toward a discomfitting two weeks for the United States delegation when COP 23 convenes in Bonn November 6, the New York Times predicts. “Like a spouse who demands a divorce but then continues to live at home, the relationship between the United States and other parties to the Paris agreement is, at best, awkward,” writes reporter Lisa Friedman.

Although Trump announced in late May that he would withdraw his country from the landmark global deal, the decision doesn’t take effect until November 2020—ironically, the day after the next U.S. presidential election.

There’s lots of speculation, and no certainty at all, about the negotiating position and behaviour other countries can expect from the U.S. in Bonn.

“The U.S. is still at the table,” George W. Bush-era environmental advisor James L. Connaughton told the Times. “It’s very important for the United States to have a presence. The U.S. is looked to and heavily engaged, regardless of differences of opinion.”

Friedman predicts “a volatile mix of anger toward the United States for declaring its intention to withdraw from the accord, mixed with lingering hope it might stay. Developing countries, particularly some of the most vulnerable to climate change, will most likely use the spotlight of the forum to denounce the Trump administration’s growing ranks of climate deniers and recent moves to repeal regulations limiting greenhouse gases.

Against that backdrop, “resentment toward an insult-hurling, free-riding U.S. president is sure to boil over,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former climate change advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton. “Trump is going to be vilified in no uncertain terms.”