Obama and his team have just two months to lock down the climate gains they’ve made in the past two terms and devise new projects for Trump’s administration to unravel. In the meantime, they’re working hard to reassure the rest of the world — and to court Trump himself.
On a mild Thursday evening in Washington, D.C., a week before COP22 began, Jonathan Pershing stood in a tent at a small party at the European Union ambassador’s house and tried to articulate what he saw as the rosy future of global climate talks. The newly chosen U.S. special envoy for climate change had been at the first rounds of United Nations climate talks just down the road in Chantilly, Virginia 25 years before. Those talks, he said, had been as humble as Paris was flashy. No foreign ministers. No heads of state. Just think, Pershing told the assembled diplomats two weeks ago, what it might be like in another 25 years’ time.
Whatever paradise of LED lighting and electric vehicles Pershing had in mind, less than a week later, his fantasy COP already looks out of reach at talks in Marrakech, Morocco. With Donald Trump as America’s President-elect, everything had changed. Now, Pershing and other global leaders find themselves answering for a man who’s called climate change a hoax and pledged to rip up the Paris agreement — all at a time when the U.S. is on track to blow past its carbon emissions budget in the next five years.