Looming over the opening of the United Nations climate change conference on Monday is the question of whether a notorious climate change-denier will be elected to lead one of the most powerful, and most polluting, nations on the planet.
The 22nd Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as COP22, kicked off in Marrakesh, Morrocco, one day before the U.S. presidential election between Republican Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
And as global leaders are meeting to hash out exactly how they intend to halt the encroaching climate crisis, "all eyes are on the United States," AFP reported, "where voting Tuesday could thrust climate denier Donald Trump into the White House."
COP22 is the first major summit since the Paris climate deal entered into force last week, and its goal is to develop a road map to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C in a way that is fair and equitable.
In an effort to assuage concerns that Trump would "cancel the Paris climate agreement," as he has vowed to do, Segolene Royal, the French environment minister who helped negotiate the treaty, said, "The Paris agreement prohibits any exit for a period of three years, plus a year-long notice period, so there will be four stable years."
Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, who will preside over the COP22 negotiations, agreed, telling reporters: "There is no possible turning back in the negotiation on what was agreed in Paris...We can only advance."
Among the most pressing issues to be tackled during COP22, which is scheduled to take place Nov. 7-18, are the financial commitments from rich nations to help support poor and developing countries to both implement their own climate plans and deal with the devastating impacts of global warming.
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Ahead of the talks, Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, chair of the Least Developed Countries group and senior negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo on climate issues, reiterated the need for "fair and ambitious action." Rich nations have promised to deliver $100bn in climate aid to developing nations by 2020.
But given that Trump has also promised to "stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs," the climate fund could face some challenges under a Republican presidency. Further, the nominee has said that if elected he would shred environment regulations and lift restrictions on all sources of American energy, including the dirtiest fossil fuels and offshore deposits.
"Donald Trump's moral failure to acknowledge the climate crisis might very well mean planetary disaster if he is elected."
—Khalid Pitts, Sierra Club
A recent analysis of the candidates' energy policies found that U.S. carbon emissions could rise by 3.4 billion tons more if Trump is elected over Clinton.
Bucking convention, China's top climate change negotiator criticized Trump's stance in regards to climate change. When asked how China would work with a Trump administration on this issue, Xie Zhenhua said last week: "If they resist this trend, I don't think they'll win the support of their people, and their country's economic and social progress will also be affected...I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends."
In sharper terms, Khalid Pitts, Sierra Club national political director, also offered how the international community would view a Trump presidency. "Electing a climate science conspiracy theorist like Trump would make America a global laughingstock and embarrassment, all while relinquishing our leadership role in the world," Pitts said.
"The ice caps don't negotiate, and neither do rising seas," Pitts added. "Donald Trump's moral failure to acknowledge the climate crisis might very well mean planetary disaster if he is elected."