May 10, 2018 / 8:57 AM / 17 days ago

Obama-era architect of climate accord seeks to keep it on track

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - A U.S. architect of the Paris climate accord under ex-President Barack Obama has been working to bolster the pact at global talks in Germany, reckoning it matches long-term U.S. interests despite U.S. President Donald Trump plans to pull out.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern is surrounded by reporters after the final draft of the climate pact was presented during the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change on December 12, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool/File Photo

“I don’t want to see the Paris Agreement roll off the tracks,” Todd Stern, who was Obama’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, told Reuters during two-week talks ending on Thursday in Germany on a detailed “rule book” for the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“That’s not in the interests of the United States,” he told Reuters. Stern is with the World Resources Institute think-tank at the Bonn meeting of almost 200 nations and also works at the Brookings Institution.

He, and many other delegates, said the United States has been concerned for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations to ensure that rules governing environmental pacts were strong and oblige China, for instance, to abide by the same standards as rich nations.

In Bonn, the U.S. delegation is also insisting on strong rules for reporting and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions in a rare overlap between Obama’s and Trump’s interests. A rule book is due to be in place by the end of 2018 at a meeting in Poland.

A strong rule book “is not only in the interests of the U.S. … It would mean everyone can say: ‘that’s a pretty good deal’,” Stern said. Stern said he was listening to delegates and giving advice.

Washington is still formally part of the Paris accord, which aims to end the fossil fuel era this century, even though Trump announced plans to quit last year and bolster the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Formally, a pullout will only take effect in 2020.

“It’s not surprising to me,” Patricia Espinosa, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said of Stern’s presence.

She told Reuters there is always a need “for people with skills, who can advise people, who can give a perspective on different things.”

Asked about Stern, a U.S. State Department official said: “the United States has always supported access for non-party stakeholders in the (U.N. climate) process, including business groups, NGOs, and other civil society representatives.”

Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said a strong rule book could make it easier for a future U.S. administration to re-enter the deal.

“U.S. policy since the 1990s has been to hold countries to the same standards,” he said.

Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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