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Americas

Trump victory casts doubt on fight against climate change

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The Ankarafantsika national park in Madagascar Sarah Tetaud/RFI

Donald Trump has questioned the science of climate change and vowed to withdraw from the Cop21 Paris climate change agreement. Countries most affected by global warming fear a dramatic shift in US's climate policy following his election as US president.

"I'm worried," Rija Randrianarisoa, a humanitarian specialist at the NGO Care International in Madagascar told RFI on Wednesday, shortly after Trump became the 45th American president.

"Trump downplayed the impact of climate change but since July the situation in Madagascar has deteriorated."

Nearly 850,000 people are on the brink of famine, according to UN agencies.

Lack of rainfall has ruined harvests and caused crops to fail, with Madagascar now facing its third consecutive year of drought.

"This is one of a series of indications of about how serious the climate problem is getting around the world," Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) told RFI by phone.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the Cop22 conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, aimed at implementing last year's Paris deal.

Trump's victory has however raised concern that efforts to curb global greenhouse gas emissions could now be thrown into disarray.

Trump candidate v Trump president

"Yes, he's won the race to be president of the United States and all we can say is that we look forward to engaging with his administration to take the climate action agenda forward," Nick Nuttal, spokesman of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), said.

Nuttal points to the strong momentum triggered by Cop21, which has already seen numerous "cities and corporations in the US moving towards climate change and a low carbon economy", a momentum he hopes will remain going into 2017.

"It really depends on whether the Donald Trump that takes office in January is the candidate we saw on the campaign trail dismissing the issue and saying how he would like to get out of the Paris agreement, or whether he is going to evolve and understand the responsibility he has to protect the health and welfare of the American people," reckons Meyer.

"This would include doing something to reduce the impacts of climate change and to assist developing countries in Africa and elsewhere in dealing with climate change,
both on solutions and adaptation to climate impacts," he adds.

Climate mitigation

Poor countries are particularly keen to see what Trump's first move will be.

But for Madagascar, the urgency is now.

"The US is Madagascar's main donor when it comes to emergency relief, we're concerned that there could be a reduction in funding," warns Rija Randrianarisoa of Care International.

And Antananarivo needs money.

According to the World Food Programme and other UN agencies, at least 140 million dollars (130 million euros) is necessary to feed families starving in Madagascar.

Back in Marrakesh, Meyer remains cautious about promising too much to the Malgache people and populations in other vulnerable countries.

"We will do everything we can to ensure that the United States does not pull back from active engagement on the issue," but he "cannot assure the people of Madagascar or anywhere else that there are not grounds for concern."

To read our coverage of this year's US presidential election click here

To read our coverage of the Cop21 climate accord click here

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