September 16, 2017 / 3:54 PM / 10 months ago

Nations meet in Montreal to discuss progress on climate-change deal

MONTREAL, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Officials from more than 30 nations that signed onto a 2015 landmark pact to fight climate change gathered in Montreal on Saturday, their first meeting since the United States last month gave formal notice it would pull out of the Paris agreement.

China’s special representative for climate change affairs, Xie Zhenhua, said that the world must press ahead with its Paris commitments.

“The Paris agreement should not be renegotiated,” he said.

Saturday’s gathering was organized by Canada, China and the European Union to open dialogue between major industrialized nations and developing countries and “enhance global momentum” for implementing the Paris agreement, said Miguel Arias Canete, European Commission commissioner for climate action and energy.

The meeting follows three devastating Atlantic hurricanes that some experts believe may have been exacerbated by warming oceans.

The Paris accord, reached by nearly 200 countries, was meant to limit global warming to 2 degrees or less, mainly through pledges to cut carbon dioxide and other fossil-fuel emissions.

The U.S. delegation was led by Everett Eissenstat, deputy assistant to the president international economic affairs. Eissenstat declined to comment.

Washington has said it would participate in UN climate change meetings during the withdrawal process, which is expected to take at least three years. It has also said it would consider participating in a new, renegotiated deal.

Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna said the participation of a U.S. delegation in Montreal was a positive sign.

“We continue to engage them,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting. “We continue to make the case that like the United States, we want to create jobs, we want to create economic growth.”

McKenna added that climate-change initiatives could create $30 trillion in economic activity.

The Montreal gathering precedes larger UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, in November, where devastation from Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean is expected to pit wealthy countries against small island nations who need help coping with damage attributable to climate change.

Irma killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars in damage across the Caribbean and Florida.

Representatives from 11 European countries are slated to meet tomorrow to discuss U.S. climate policy in New York City with Gary Cohn, the president’s National Economic Advisor. (Reporting By Allison Lampert; Editing by Jim Finkle and Editing by Franklin Paul)

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