Since Wednesday morning, a heavy silence has been in place of the normal crowd at the corridors of COP-22. While NGOs and specialists encourage a speech of faith on the Paris Agreement, the negotiators have refused to comment a word on Trump’s election. As a candidate, Donald Trump had been clear about not believing at climate change and not committing to slow down US carbon emissions. As an elected president, he just announced the intention to nominate another climate denier, Myron Ebell, to command the Environmental Protection Agency.
At the corridors, COP participants have a consensus about the heavy discouragement to other countries if the US doesn’t show engagement in doing its homework. The most optimistic view, however, is that the US has never contributed to the compliance of the agreement and if they abandon the process – as Trump promised – it would open space to new actors and stronger commitments.
Despite the silence of the delegations and absence of declarations during the meetings (they followed the agenda, just canceling the press conferences!); China’s negotiatior-in-chief answered the press with a note in which he reaffirms Chinese commitments to the Paris Agreements and expresses the hope to keep the cooperation with US on that matter.
To pull out of the Paris Agreement, as Trump promised, is not that easy: the process would take four years – a whole presidential term. Also, according to observers, the action could have a high political cost to the United States, since more countries are committed to an energy transition than at the time of Kyoto Protocol.
Nevertheless, the old Kyoto is the ghost that has surprised the negotiations, more than the news of the US elections. Without the US approval in 1997, the biggest carbon emitter at that time, the protocol took eight years to become an international law. The Paris Agreement, on the other hand, entered into force less than one year after it has been signed, partially thanks to an important gesture from the US, that announced its national contributions along with China. Together, they are responsible for 35% of global emissions.
The negotiations for the implementation of the Paris Agreement will go on up to 2018, when the countries are supposed to present new and more ambitious goals to mitigate climate change. Trump will have finished half of his term by then. The question dividing opinions is: would US mess the energy transition or would it be left behind?