Trump sends 'much smaller' team to UN climate change summit

The president is considering having the US withdraw from the global Paris Agreement

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The Independent US

A "much smaller" US delegation is set to attend a United Nations climate change summit in Bonn, Germany as Donald Trump considers withdrawing from the historic Paris Agreement, the White House has said. 

The agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015, looks to cap the increase in world temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible as determined by a panel of scientists and several years of political, financial, and legal negotiations. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has not appointed many deputies in the State Department, especially those that would be in charge of the US obligations under the Paris Agreement. 

This means acting deputies and career civil servants will likely be attending the Bonn meeting with no real power to act on behalf of the administration. 

However, the administration seems to not have a clear message to send the world in any case. 

Late last week the White House held a Cabinet-level meeting without Mr Trump regarding whether to withdraw from the agreement signed by nearly 200 nations in December 2015. 

However, climate policy analyst Dr Andrew Light of Washington, DC-based think tank World Resources Institute told The Independent that the meeting was inconclusive. 

Mr Light said there are still “substantive legal questions” regarding what provisions of the Paris Agreement are binding. 

Due to the lack of proper State Department staffing and lower-level meetings scheduled, Mr Trump’s position is a bit ambiguous. 

He has claimed in the past that climate change was a “hoax” created by the Chinese. 

Given his new, seemingly positive relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, that stance has softened. Mr Trump also needs China’s cooperation has tensions rise with one-time Chinese ally North Korea, which recently tested its nuclear weapons. 

Mr Light said a decision about whether to withdraw will likely be made before the Group of 7 summit, which Mr Trump will attend late this month in Italy. 

Leaders of G-7 will need an answer from the US, one of the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide, on the Paris Agreement by then so they can make decisions about their own climate-related obligations. 

The meeting in Bonn this month is a precursor to a larger summit in November 2017 to discuss financing climate change programmes globally, among other issues. 

The White House has made it clear no decisions will be made in Bonn to affect US businesses or future policy decisions. 

Under the Paris deal, the US committed to cut its emissions 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. 

Mr Trump has already signed executive orders dismantling Obama-era environmental protections, appointed a former oil executive as Secretary of State, and plans to gut environmental programmes across many government agencies in his proposed federal budget. 

Mr Trump won the election during the last major UN climate summit in Marrakesh, Morocco - just days after the Paris Agreement officially went into force for the US on 4 November 2016. 

The mood of international leaders at the summit was a mix of shock, fear of uncertainty, and resolve. 

Former Secretary of State John Kerry assured the world that the American fight against climate change did not solely lie with the federal government. State, city, and local governments play a crucial role as well. 

 “No one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the US who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris,” Mr Kerry said then.