UNEP chief confident US will not ditch Paris climate deal

By AFP   April 24, 2017 | 05:14 pm PT
'I am confident... I think we will see the United States on board.'

The U.N.'s environment chief is confident that the United States will not pull out of the Paris climate deal and expects a decision from Washington next month.

Erik Solheim told AFP in an interview on Monday that even if the United States withdraws, China and the European Union will step in and take the lead to implement the global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"I am confident... I think we will see the United States on board," said Solheim, who spoke at U.N. headquarters in New York following meetings last week at the U.S. State Department, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.

The executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme said a decision is expected from President Donald Trump's administration before the G7 meeting in Italy at the end of May.

Despite the uncertainty from Washington, U.S. businesses are already making the shift to the green economy, investing massively in solar technology and other forms of clean energy, Solheim said.

"Whatever happens with American policies, the United States will be able to fulfill the Paris commitments simply because of the surge of the private sector," he said.

"This is what defines reality. Reality is not just political decisions, it's technology and business."

The Paris climate agreement was signed last year by 175 countries including the world's top polluters China and the United States and went into force in November, just days before Trump won the presidential election.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to "cancel" the Paris accord but he has not taken a position since taking office.

His advisers are reportedly divided on whether to withdraw, with his daughter Ivanka said to be making the case for the administration to stick with the deal.

"We need American leadership," said Solheim, who served as environment minister and international development minister in Norway. He took the helm of the Nairobi-based UN agency last year.

"But if there is no American leadership, China will lead, the European Union will lead," he said.

"France in all likelihood will elect (Emmanuel) Macron as president and he is for sure committed to the climate agenda, with the Germans."

"China is ready to step forward to provide global leadership and they have the ability to do it," he said.

Under the agreement, signatories undertake to limit global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and to strive for 1.5 C.

Countries are submitting voluntary, non-binding carbon-cutting goals towards this goal.

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