Donald Trump given short shrift over climate change threat

Possibility of US quitting global accord rebuffed in France and Brazil

France and Brazil have joined China in spurning Donald Trump’s threat to pull out of the Paris climate agreement if the Republican candidate wins next week’s US presidential election.

Speaking on the eve of the climate accord coming into force, Ségolène Royal, the French environment minister, said on Thursday that she would not even “entertain the hypothesis” of a Trump victory because that “gives credibility to the idea”.

She dismissed his threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement as a campaign tactic, saying: “Maybe he needed more financing from the oil lobby.” And even if he could legally pull out from the agreement, “in practice it is impossible because countries have everything to gain from remaining”, she said.

Separately, Brazil’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho, said he could not imagine any society abandoning the fight against global warming given how serious the problem was, declaring: “On a personal note, I hope Trump doesn’t win.”

“I believe the American society is a strong society, much stronger than any possible head of state,” the minister said.

The comments follow a warning from China’s top climate change negotiator that Mr Trump would be out of step with international trends if he turned his back on the Paris deal that nearly 200 countries adopted in December.

“I believe that if he were a wise leader, he should know that all policies should be responsive to the trend of the world’s development,” Xie Zhenhua said in Beijing this week.

The remarks reflect growing nervousness among climate change campaigners about the prospect of Mr Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s election.

Ségolène Royal insists 'countries have everything to gain from remaining' in the climate agreement © Bloomberg

The Republican candidate has called global warming a hoax invented by China to make US manufacturers uncompetitive and vowed to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement. He also says he would stop all US payments for UN global warming programmes.

No individual country can scrap the Paris accord, painstakingly negotiated by nearly all the world’s nations over four years. But Mr Trump could deal the pact a significant blow by either pulling the US out of it or abandoning domestic measures launched by President Barack Obama to cut reliance on coal and other fossil fuels.

The US election falls on the second day of the latest round of UN climate talks, to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from November 7 to 18. Delegates are braced for the election outcome to cast a large shadow over the meeting, the first since the December conference in Paris that adopted the agreement.

The prospect of Mr Trump’s victory has been cited as one reason why so many countries rushed to ratify or join the Paris accord this year, including the US, China, the EU and India.

That paved the way for the accord to unexpectedly come into force on Friday, a record speed for an international agreement of this scale.

But the UN warned on Thursday that the world was still heading for a 2.9C to 3.4C rise in temperatures this century, even with the pledges that have been made for the Paris deal, which aims to hold warming to 2C, or 1.5C if possible.

Planet-warming emissions of carbon dioxide are likely to be as high as 56 gigatonnes by 2030, well above the 42 gigatonnes needed to reach the 2C target, the UN Environment Programme said in a report.

Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby in Beijing

This article has been amended since original publication.

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