November 17, 2017 / 5:45 PM / a year ago

Nations keep global climate deal on track despite U.S. pullout

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Nearly 200 nations made progress towards keeping a landmark 2015 global deal to tackle climate change on track at United Nations talks ending on Friday despite a U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, COP23 President Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, pose for a family photo during COP23 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Governments made advances on drafting a detailed rule book for implementing the Paris accord at the two-week meeting in Bonn, Germany, delegates said. The rules have to be finalised by December next year.

“To meet the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement, we will need to hit the ground running in 2020” when it formally starts up, said Jose Sarney Filho, Brazil’s minister for the environment.

“Right now we’re moving at a brisk walk, so all countries will need to really pick up the pace from here.”

Countries also agreed to launch a process to find ways to toughen countries’ current pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions to reach the pact’s goal of limiting global average temperature rise to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Scientists say current pledges put the world on track for a temperature rise of about three degrees by 2100.

The Bonn meeting has been conducted under the shadow of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, which stoked fears other countries would follow suit.

None have done so. Nicaragua and Syria, the only ones which had not signed up for the Paris Agreement, ratified this month. Even nations whose economies depend on fossil fuels have rallied around.

“Everyone got together and said ‘we have to protect the world. We have to protect the Paris Agreement’. Countries are moving forward,” United Arab Emirates climate minister Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi told Reuters.

Trump, who doubts that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of rising temperatures, said in June that he plans to pull out of the accord and instead promote jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

But Washington retains its place in the talks for now because the Paris pact stipulates that no country can formally pull out before November 2020.

“We’ve good reason to be happy about where we are today compared to a year ago,” Norwegian Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen said. A year ago, he noted that Trump’s election cast gloom over the last talks in Morocco.

However, the fossil fuel industry was very much under the spotlight during the talks. The U.S. administration’s only event in Bonn was to promote coal, which jarred with many other nations who wanted talks to focus on renewable energies.

In seeming defiance, 20 countries and two U.S. states joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030.

Environment groups said the outcome in Bonn was a step in the right direction, but many issues needed to be resolved over the next year, including financial support for developing nations who want to cut emissions and for adaptation.

Steam rises from a coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity companies in Neurath, north-west of Cologne, Germany, November 10, 2017. Picture taken November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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