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Although being a very technical session on adaptation and mitigation regulations in the lead-up to the COP23 in Bonn later this year, the SBI46 session, organised by the UNFCCC in Bonn, has all eyes pointed to the U.S.

Talks of the U.S. possibly stepping out of the Paris agreement have made negotiators cautious of its – compared to other countries’ already relatively weak – commitment to reduce its emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The U.S. delegation in Bonn has done nothing to lessen that wariness

During its multilateral assessment, U.S. delegate Trigg Taley stated that “the Trump administration has not yet developed a climate policy, and is instead laying its priorities with national security and the creation of jobs”. Furthermore, the administration hopes to further reduce what it calls “unduly burdensome regulations regarding emissions” in the future and confirmed its plans to break down the Clean Power Act in the coming months.

During the presentation of its recent national climate efforts, a 1% reduction of emissions per year was mentioned. No projections for emission cuts in the near future could be made yet, and the U.S. it’s 2020 pledge has not been addressed yet. Taley clarified that the administration’s stance on future efforts is still unclear and revisions of regulations will only be finalised by autumn. Current guidelines on clean power plants and on coal regulations in federal territories are among the regulations under review. Taley declared the main reason for the small reduction in emissions to be an increase in temperatures during U.S. winters.

Trigg Taley, one of the delegates of the United States, as he speaks to other delegates at the UNFCCC intersessionals in Bonn. He has served as the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State since 2013. Photo: IISD

Reproachful comments on the U.S. statements were made by Brazil, India, China and the E.U., among others.

Brazil questioned the complete lack of greenhouse gas market mechanisms in the U.S. and the recent change in methodology in its estimations of emission reductions. India noticed the U.S. had not contributed to the GreenClimateFund thus far and the E.U. declared the Trump administration to have no strategy whatsoever on the long-term reduction of its emissions. No concise answer to any of these remarks was given by the U.S. delegation, with Taley stating that these are policy issues that can not be answered during this technical assessment.

Forwards, also without the U.S.

The lack of accomplishment by the Trump administration, however, is not holding back the international community in making constructive strides during the SBI46 session in preparation for talks on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement on the COP 23 in November.

The current negotiations have a strong sense of direction and are making a lot of progress,” stated Laurence Tubina, one of the main architects of the Paris agreement.

Despite the recent, sweeping policy rollbacks by President Trump, global emissions by 2030 are unlikely to undergo a major impact. A recent report from Climate Action Tracker (CAT) designates a new leading role in reducing emissions for both India and China.

Delegates huddle during the APA contact group as the session continues into the evening. Photo: IISD

Both countries are set to overachieve their Paris Agreement climate pledges. China’s coal consumption has declined over three consecutive years (2013 to 2016), and a continued slow decline is expected. India has stated that its planned coal-fired power plants may not be needed.

The positive developments in India and China significantly outweigh the potentially negative effects on emissions from the Trump Administration’s proposed rollbacks in the US, estimated at around 0.4 GtCO2 by 2030.

There is no way back,” said the Moroccan minister of Foreign affairs and former president of the COP22 Salaheddine Mezouar, “the international community realises that the promises it made are irreversible.”

Arthur Wyns

About Arthur Wyns

Arthur Wyns is a tropical biologist and science journalist who writes about climate change, environment and migration. He manages Programs and Partnerships for Climate Tracker since 2017. With a group of biologists he founded Lonely Creatures, an organisation that brings under attention the stories of endangered species around the world.