UN Climate Chief Patricia Espinoza has been unable to reach the US State Department over her request for a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or other department officials. Espinoza is the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and was in the US earlier this week. The snub comes as the Trump administration seems to be working out a new policy approach towards global climate change and international efforts to address it. Espinoza was seeking a meeting to determine the administration’s commitment to the Paris accord and other climate efforts.
After confirming no meetings had been scheduled, one state department official said “As with many policies, this administration is conducting a broad review of international climate issues.”
While secretaries of state have not always met directly with the UNFCCC, they have normally given access to a US climate envoy, a position which the new administration has yet to fill. The total lack of response to Espinoza, a former foreign minster of Mexico, is considered unusual.
Maria Ivanova, who is a global governance expert from the University of Massachusetts, said:
“I don’t think it’s a good sign – it’s a snub. Patricia Espinosa has been very gracious about this and she understands what it is like to be a foreign minister. But not responding to the executive secretary is not good manners.”
The move comes after a campaign in which Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement and stop US funding of UN climate change programs. After his election win, Trump said he would keep an “open mind” regarding the Paris deal, and Tillerson said the US should have a “seat at the table” of international climate talks.
Other members of the Trump administration have favored pulling out of the deal entirely, and have even advocated exiting the UNFCCC altogether.
Many businesses have called for Trump to keep the Paris accord in place, including Nike, Ikea, and Hewlett-Packard. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and husband and presidential adviser Jared Kushner are also said to support the agreement.
China has indicated a willingness to take a leadership role on climate issues if the US scales back its involvement, and other countries could institute border adjustment tariffs on the US if it leaves the deal.
Even the Paris agreement is not enough to keep temperatures below the 2 degrees Celsius warming target, keeping the planet on track to increase by 3 degrees or more by the end of the century. Such an increase would accelerate rising sea levels, and threaten ecosystems which humans depend on around the world.