The State Department’s climate envoy assured supporters of the Paris climate agreement on Monday that President-elect Donald Trump can’t unravel the deal entirely by himself, and warned that the U.S. could become an outcast if he tries.
State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing said at a press conference at the Marrakesh, Morocco, international climate meeting that the economy is already moving away from fossil fuels, regardless of whether Trump follows through on his plan to “cancel” the Paris agreement and repeal the Clean Power Plan.
Two Chinese officials have reportedly warned that it would be a bad idea for the U.S. to renege on the commitments it made in Paris last year. That climate deal went into force on Nov. 4. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy also reportedly said Europe should impose a carbon tax for U.S. products if the country pulls out of the agreement.
“I cannot speak to the president-elect’s team, or to their outlook on international climate policy,” Pershing said. “What I do know, however, is that the power of the movement and the enormous momentum created in Paris and built throughout the year since, parties are deeply invested in seeing this work bear real fruit.”
Pershing said Monday that Chinese officials and many others have reiterated to him that they intend to move forward on the climate agreement regardless of the U.S.’s actions.
“I’m hearing the same from the Europeans, I’m hearing the same from the Brazilians, I’m hearing the same from Mexico and from Canada, and from smaller nations like Costa Rica and from Colombia,” Pershing said. “I don’t think the U.S. change here is going to affect the development pathway of others.”
International leaders are meeting in Marrakesh in an annual conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which negotiated last year’s greenhouse gas-cutting agreement in Paris. This year’s meeting aims to deal with the details of how countries will set their promises in stone.
Trump, however, could deal a huge blow to the agreement. While it takes four years to formally pull out of the Paris agreement, if he were to repeal the Clean Power Plan, he would already be breaking the promises the U.S. has made, which could cause other countries to pull out.
Pershing and other supporters of the Paris deal have downplayed that possibility, saying the success so far in bringing countries into the deal has already sent a powerful market signal. Pershing said Monday that a president alone can’t completely undo the deal.
“Heads of state can and will change, but I am confident that we can and we will sustain a durable international effort to counter climate change,” he said.