Envoy says US to keep fighting greenhouse gas emissions

Participants sit on the floor in front of a poster during a break at the UN Climate Conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)
FILE - In this July 21, 2017 fiel photo a polar bear walks over sea ice floating in the Victoria Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The COP 23 Fiji UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, is scheduled to end Friday, Nov. 17 and aims at producing draft rules for implementing the Paris accord. (AP Photo/David Goldman, file)
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2017 file photo traffic crowds a road in Moscow, Russia after a sunset as smoke billows from a power plant in background. The COP 23 Fiji UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, is scheduled to end Friday, Nov. 17 and aims at producing draft rules for implementing the Paris accord. . (AP Photo/Pavel Glolovkin, file)
FILE - In this April 30, 2009 file photo fishes swim near coral reefs in Komodo waters, Indonesia. The COP 23 Fiji UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, is scheduled to end Friday, Nov. 17 and aims at producing draft rules for implementing the Paris accord. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, file)

BONN, Germany — The United States is committed to reducing greenhouse gas even though the Trump administration still plans to pull out of the Paris accord on fighting global warming, the top U.S. representative at international climate talks told other delegates 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 keep global warming significantly below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), the U.S. State Department's Judith Garber said "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 toward low greenhouse gas emissions energy systems," she said.

Although Garber's comments weren't unexpected, her tone appeared more conciliatory. The United States was largely isolated in its rejection of the Paris accord at the talks in Bonn, Germany, which are expected to end Friday.

Earlier in the week, a panel discussion hosted by the U.S. delegation that promoted the idea that fossil fuels such as coal could be made 'clean' drew vocal protests from environmental activists.

While coal-fueled power stations are considered one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide that's heating up the Earth's atmosphere, 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 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.

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.

____

David Rising contributed from Berlin.

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