CANCUN, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United States must not backtrack on the Paris climate change agreement, as its participation sends a vital signal to other nations that the pact is critically needed, a top United Nations official said on Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of the global deal to combat climate change but has agreed to postpone a decision that had been expected ahead of this week’s meeting of Group of Seven leaders in Italy.
U.N. Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, speaking on the sidelines of a major U.N. conference on disasters, said she respected Trump putting the Paris agreements under review.
But she said the United States must remain committed to the deal, which aims to limit global warming by slashing carbon dioxide and other emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
“It’s good news the U.S. is reflecting, because it is important they don’t pull out,” Mohammed, formerly Nigeria’s environment minister, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“This is one of the top five emitters in the world, and it does matter what they do with the way in which they grow and their contribution to emissions in the world,” she said at the Mexican Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction conference, held in the resort city of Cancun this week.
“You see countries around the table here that as a result of climate change may not have a future. That’s not something we can sacrifice,” she said. “The moral imperative for that collective responsibility is to get behind the Paris agreement and implement it.”
Trump, who doubts climate change is human-made, campaigned on a pledge to sweep away Obama administration environmental protections he said were hobbling the economy.
He has since said he is open to staying in the 2015 pact if Washington gets better terms, and scores of large U.S. companies and several Republican lawmakers have urged him to stay in the deal as a way to protect U.S. industry interests overseas.
Leaders at the Group of Seven meeting, which starts on Friday, are expected to try to convince Trump to remain in the pact.
Most scientists say curbing greenhouse gas emissions would limit the effects of climate change, including rising seas, deadly heat waves and severe storms and droughts.
Mohammed also said more resources are needed to protect against catastrophes and, at a news conference, called a move by the United States to cut its U.N. commitments “an alarm.”
The United States is the biggest U.N. contributor. The Trump administration has proposed cutting about a third of the funding - nearly $19 billion - in its diplomacy and aid budgets.
“The demand is even more these days than it has ever been,” she said. “Reducing commitments to the United Nations is not the answer.”
The Cancun conference was aimed at assessing progress on a framework hammered out in Sendai, Japan in 2015 that set targets for governments to cut deaths and economic losses from disasters by 2030.
Reporting by Sophie Hares, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org