Envoy Says U.S. to Keep Fighting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

BONN, Germany (AP) -
A polar bear walks over sea ice floating in the Victoria Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. (AP Photo/David Goldman, file)

The United States is still committed to reducing greenhouse gas even though the Trump administration still plans to pull out of the Paris accord that aims to fight global warming, the top U.S. representative at international climate talks told other delegates on Thursday.

Britain and Canada, meanwhile, announced a new alliance aimed at encouraging countries to phase out the use of coal to curb climate change. Among others, the Global Alliance to Power Past Coal also includes Finland, France, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand and several U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

In closing remarks to the conference working out the technical details of the Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the U.S. State Department’s Judith Garber said that “we remain open to the possibility of rejoining (the Paris climate deal) at a later date under terms more favorable to the American people.”

Despite U.S. skepticism over the Paris accord, “the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy and innovation, and we understand the need for transforming energy systems,” said Garber, the acting assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.

“We remain collectively committed to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through, among other things, increased innovation on sustainable energy and energy efficiency, and working towards low greenhouse gas emissions energy systems,” she said.

The talks are expected to end Friday.

While coal-fueled power stations are considered one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide, countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States are planning to expand their use of coal in the coming years. Even Germany and Poland, hosts of climate talks this year and next, are holding onto coal for the foreseeable future.

Garber did not mention the use of coal, but said that as countries strive to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, each “will need to determine the appropriate energy mix based on its particular circumstances, taking into account the need for energy security, promotion of economic growth and environmental protection.

“In that context, we want to support the cleanest, most efficient power generation, regardless of source,” she added.

In a private initiative announced Thursday, Storebrand, a Norwegian investment fund that manages assets worth over $80 billion, said it would pull investments from ten companies over their involvement in the coal sector.

Chief Executive Jan Erik Saugestad said the decision is meant as a warning to utility companies to “clean up” their energy sources “or lose customers and investors.”

The companies affected include German energy company RWE, Poland’s PGE and Eskom Holdings of South Africa.

Storebrand said it hopes the much larger Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund, which holds $1 trillion generated from the country’s sale of oil, will follow its divestment decision.