UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing, May 14, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres may have inadvertently given President Donald Trump a reason to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement during a Tuesday speech at New York University.
Guterres told the NYU audience that he would “intensify high-level political engagement to raise the bar on climate action,” a message that should give Trump pause before making any firm decision on whether to stay party to the Paris accord.
“The Paris pledges are historic but still do not go nearly far enough to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees,” Guterres said.
“Commitments so far could still see temperatures rise by 3 degrees or more,” he said. “So we must do our utmost to increase ambition and action until we can bend the emissions curve and slow down global warming.”
Trump promised to “cancel” the Paris Agreement on the campaign trail, and said that he would make a decision on the matter this week. White House sources told media outlets Trump would withdraw from the agreement, but Bloomberg reported no final decision has been made.
Bloomberg noted that “Trump has a record of shifting course on major decisions up until the last moment.” The Associated Press reported that officials were examining “caveats in the language” of the agreement related to an exit.
Trump has been pressured by European leaders, major corporations and environmentalists to remain in the Paris Agreement. White House aides Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn favor remaining in the agreement, as does Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The Tillerson wing of the administration wants Trump to remain in the deal with a weaker pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama administration pledged to cut emissions from 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Paris proponents say that Trump can legally reduce his commitments with no fear of retaliation since the accord is not legally binding. But Guterres’s statements show that Trump would be under increased political pressure if he remained in Paris.
Trump would come under pressure from Guterres and others to increase their efforts to cut emissions — a stark contrast to Trump’s domestic agenda of boosting coal, oil and gas production.
Guterres also issued a veiled warning to Trump that countries that opted out of the Paris Agreement would be left behind.
“Climate change is undeniable,” Guterres said. “Climate action is unstoppable. And climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.”
“The sustainability train has left the station,” Guterres said. “Get on board or get left behind.”
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