Wednesday May 24, 2017

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Week Ahead

Second wind

The Fairbanks Arctic Council meeting gives climate talks in Bonn a shot in the arm
A stay of inexecution (Photo: UNFCC)

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Before the Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, signed off on the Fairbanks Declaration last week, which contained surprisingly concrete wording on global warming, the biggest climate-related event of the week was due to be the Bonn Climate Change Conference, a UN event that started on May 8 and concludes on Thursday.

Though not Arctic-centric, the Bonn meeting has a direct impact on the region: it is here scientists, gathered to prepare for the annual UN climate conference, also to be held on Bonn, this November, were to discuss implementation of the climate-change agreement signed by 195 countries in Paris in December 2015. That agreement aims to slow the pace of global warming and to keep the unavoidable impacts to a minimum.

The discussion in Bonn, however, had hit a wall: delegates had their eyes on Washington, awaiting a decision by Donald Trump about whether he would withdraw the US from the deal. The decision was expected last Tuesday, but Mr Trump is keeping them on pins and needles. He will first gather more input about the effects of sticking with the deal signed by his predecessor in the White House. Any decision will wait until after he meets with leaders from the G7, a group of major industrial economies, on May 26 and 27, in Italy.

SEE RELATED: Eyes and minds

The Trump administration’s position remains that it will not accept any agreement it feels runs contrary to the country’s economic interests. Those working to keep the US in the deal may use the Fairbanks meeting as something of ace to show that even within Mr Trump’s administration here are those who feel the two are compatible.

According to Reuters, a news outlet, Mr Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, a huge oil company, was convinced to agree to the wording of the Fairbanks Declaration after “hours of debate” with other foreign ministers, who reportedly stressed the business benefits of taking action to prevent global warming. 

Still, despite signing, Mr Tillerson remained non-committal, telling the gathering, “We are going to make the right decision for the United States.”

Such mixed messages will do little ease anxiety in Bonn, but rather than remaining a crisis-management session, the gathering may wind up taking on the atmosphere of a revival meeting.