US works on climate interests relevant if Trump stays in UN pact

OSLO (Reuters) - A pared-down U.S. delegation has quietly worked to promote long-standing U.S. climate interests at global talks in Germany even though President Donald Trump is threatening to pull out of an agreement largely designed by Washington.

U.S. delegates at the May 8-18 talks in Bonn, seeking detailed rules for the 2015 Paris Agreement to shift the world economy from fossil fuels, have stopped short of stressing Trump’s doubts that climate change has a human cause.

“I think the main headline at this point is that ‘there are many, many measures under review,” delegation leader Trigg Talley told the conference in a speech about trends in man-made U.S. greenhouse gas emissions on May 13.

The 15-strong U.S. delegation, against more than 40 at similar talks a year ago, has underlined climate priorities that have long had bipartisan support in Washington, such as a need for clear rules to track national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

For now, Washington is still part of the agreement among almost 200 nations and Talley has to walk a fine line to avoid offending either the White House or backers led by China, the European Union and India.

Talley “is very open in repeating ‘our position is under review’. He is actively engaged, participating in the discussions. I think this attitude has been appreciated,” said Patricia Espinosa, the U.N.’s climate chief.

Talley declined to comment to Reuters on the U.S. role.

“They’re not hampering anything. They’re sending the same people. The only difference is that they don’t have any guidance” on future policies, said Ronald Jumeau of the Seychelles. “And no one here is berating the Americans.”

Trump has said he will decide after a Group of Seven summit in Italy on May 26-27 whether to carry out a campaign threat to “cancel” the Paris Agreement as part of his goals to promote the U.S. fossil fuel industry and U.S. jobs.

Talley, appointed deputy special envoy for climate change at the State Department by former President Barack Obama, has worked under Republican and Democratic administrations since 1999.

During the talks, one U.S. official paired up with a Chinese delegate to oversee discussions on how to ensure clear and transparent accounting of pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

“The U.S. is still in the agreement and so issues like transparency makes sense ... in the past it has had strong bipartisan support,” said David Waskow, of the Washington-based World Resources Institute think-tank.

Many delegates note the Paris Agreement was largely an American design to limit emissions blamed for causing heatwaves, loss of species, droughts, more powerful storms and rising sea levels. It lets all nations set national policies to fight climate change, with no sanctions for non-compliance.