WATCH: Trump and the 'climate change hoax'

Photo: Evan Vucci, AP
Photo: Evan Vucci, AP

Morocco - Donald Trump loomed large over climate talks on Tuesday where UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged nations to redouble their planet-rescue efforts and voiced hope the US would not pull out of its commitments.

Elected to the White House a week ago, Trump had previously called global warming a "hoax" perpetrated by China, and threatened to "cancel" the hard-fought Paris Agreement concluded a year ago.

But Ban said he had spoken to the businessman turned president-elect, and was "optimistic" Trump "will hear and understand the seriousness and urgency of addressing climate change".

"As the president of the US I am sure he will understand this, he will listen, he will vary his campaign remarks," the outgoing UN secretary general told journalists.

"I am sure he will make a good, wise decision."

Contrary to Trump's allegation, China is investing in campaigns to curb climate change, encourage responsible food consumption and invest in the using renewables. 

Various public service announcements, produced by WildAid’s China-based 5 To Do Today climate program is expected to reach tens of millions of people across China, and hopes to add to the global movement to mitigate climate change.

The announcements involve various entertainment industry icons and climate activists, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, seen in the video below: 

Petition to stop Trump going to war with climate action

Chinese officials warned Trump that he would be defying the wishes of the entire planet if he were to follow through on his campaign promise to back out of the Paris climate agreement.

The UN climate body's parties agreee. 

Gathered in Marrakesh since last Monday, 7 November, representatives from the UN climate body's 197 parties have started thrashing out a roadmap for putting the agreement into action.

But climate change denier Trump's ascension to the US presidency has been uppermost on the minds of delegates and negotiators.

Many fear that withdrawal by the United States, a champion of the deal under President Barack Obama, would shatter the political goodwill built up over years of negotiations, and put the very goals of the deal at risk.

A petition pleading to stop Trump going to war with climate action is also circulating online, with conservationists hoping to get governments' signatures before its too late. 

It addresses World Leaders saying, "As global citizens, we strongly oppose any plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, that could put our planet in peril. We call on you to move ahead with plans to bring carbon emissions to zero through 100% clean energy, and to provide funding to the most vulnerable, regardless of the direction the new US President takes.

"We also call on you to send a clear message to Mr Trump that the Paris accord is in global economic and security interests, and ensure the rest of the world speeds up if he slows the US down. Your leadership is more critical than ever to avoid climate disaster."

You can sign it here

Ban joined some 80 heads of state and government for the "high-level segment" of the annual UN climate meeting - the first since last year's adoption of the Paris Agreement to stave off calamitous global warming.

Among the leaders was Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, for whom the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

Ban, who welcomed heads of state on the red carpet, was not there to receive Bashir.

Gambling with the future 

But the real shadow on the gathering was Trump.

President Francois Hollande of France, which hosted last year's UN climate conference, stressed that the United States "must respect the commitments it has undertaken".

"It is not only their duty, it is in their interest as well as (the interest of) all people," he told conference delegates.

The Paris pact sets out the objective of limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by cutting planet-heating greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil, and gas. 

South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs Endna Molewa also signed the agreement on behalf of the South African Government – an agreement that is universally regarded as a seminal point in the development of the international climate change regime under the UNFCCC.

SEE: #FutureIsClean: SA's plans to reduce global warming

Ban underlined that no country, "however resourceful or powerful" was immune from the impacts of climate change - rising seas, worsening storms and droughts, spreading diseases and conflict over ever-scarcer resources.

A photo posted by UN Climate Action (@unfccc) on

"My sense is that as a very successful business person in the past... I believe that he (Trump) understands that there are market forces already at work on this issue."

Ban was attending the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22 for short) of the UN's climate convention - his last before his term ends in December.

While waiting for Trump to make his position clear, many are looking to the rest of the world to strongly restate their commitment to the Paris Agreement, with or without the US.

To date, 110 parties have officially ratified the pact, which entered into force on November 4 after crossing the threshold of at least 55 ratifications by countries representing at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

They included the US, which represents about 14 percent of emissions. But Trump can withdraw Washington from the deal.

On Tuesday, Ban called for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, estimated to exceed $500 billion (more than R7 billion) a year, to ease the transition to clean energy.

To bolster the Paris agreement, nations have made non-binding pledges to curb fossil fuel use, but these, collectively, "will not get us out of the danger zone", said Ban.

Climate change is real 

Last year was the warmest on record, and 2016 seems on course to be hotter still. In South Africa, especially, the effects of the changing and extreme weather is obvious. In the last week only, SA was hit with flash floods, heat waves, hail and severe thunderstorms. And this all after a long-standing drought that has gripped the country for over a year now. 

Ban also says, "Today more than 150 million people live on land that could be submerged or suffer chronic flooding within this century, possibly causing massive waves of migration and instability." 

"We have no right to gamble with the fate of future generations or imperil the survival of other species that share our planet."

SEE: #FutureIsClean: Catch up with climate change and DiCaprio

What to read next on Traveller24

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#FutureIsClean: Catch up with climate change and DiCaprio

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