November 11, 2016 / 7:35 PM / 9 months ago

Trump's climate plan 'catastrophic': France's Royal

French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal speaks during an interview with Reuters at the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco November 11, 2016.Youssef Boudlal

MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters) - Donald Trump's plan to drop out of world cooperation on slowing climate change would be "absolutely catastrophic" and weaken the United States, France's environment minister said on Friday.

But Segolene Royal, defending a 2015 Paris climate agreement she helped construct, told Reuters she believed the U.S. president-elect might switch track once he takes office.

Trump has called global warming a hoax, wants to cancel the Paris Agreement and halt all U.S. funding of U.N. global warming programs.

"If such decisions are taken it would be absolutely catastrophic," said Royal, a Socialist.

"I dare to believe that such things are campaign promises to please a certain electorate which has not understood that global warming is a reality," she said at a Nov. 7-18 meeting of 200 nations in Marrakesh, Morocco, on actions to limit warming.

Trump says he wants to bolster U.S. jobs and avoid dependence on OPEC oil by exploiting the "$50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves" in the United States.

By contrast, the Paris Agreement seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels.

U.S. President elect Donald Trump speaks at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.Mike Segar/File Photo

In Marrakesh, many nations have reaffirmed backing for the Paris Agreement's goals of shifting to wind, solar and other cleaner energies.

"I think that when he (Trump) actually takes office he will see that withdrawing from multilateral negotiations and climate issues would weaken the United States," Royal said.

She said the United States itself was suffering from side-effects of climate change, pointing to storm surges in Miami and wildfires in California.

"China can take the place of the United States if the United States withdraws," from a leading role on climate change, she said.

China and top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia expressed support in Marrakesh on Friday for the Paris Agreement.

"Our policies and action will not by impacted by any action by the U.S. government," Chen Zhihua, of China's National Development and Reform Commission, told a news conference.

"Saudi Arabia is committed," a Saudi delegate said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said the country was vulnerable to climate change, such as water shortages, damage to coral reefs, sea level rise and desertification.

Reporting by Alister Doyle; editing by Andrew Roche

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