(CN) — U.S. corporate commitments will keep carbon goals on track, an environmental arm of the United Nations reported Tuesday, dispelling concern about President Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Paris agreement.
In a 116-page paper titled “Emissions Gap,” the U.N.’s Environmental Program says derailment efforts by the Trump administration have been offset by “a number of new initiatives driven by sub-national and non-state actors, such as America’s Pledge on Climate, We Are Still In, Climate Mayors and the US Climate Alliance.”
“If backed by action, these initiatives have the potential to make up for the withdrawal,” the report continues.
The agency’s executive director Erik Solheim told a panel in Geneva on Tuesday that corporate America would pick up the slack for the federal government in the worst-case scenario.
"There is one question that I get more often than any other question wherever I go on the planet and it is a very simple one. It is: 'What about Donald Trump?'" Solheim said via videoconference from Nairobi.
"In all likelihood, the United States of America will live up to its Paris commitment, not because of the White House, but because of the private sector," he continued. "All the big American companies are dedicated to go in the green direction.”
The UNEP’s report emphasizes that the United States will remain bound by the agreement for some time.
“The earliest that United States of America withdrawal can take effect is in 2020, four years after the Paris Agreement entered into force,” it states.
Clouding the sunny outlook, the agency questioned projections by the U.S. State Department that the nation is meeting its commitments.
“The most recent official projections, produced before the current Administration took office, indicated that the United States was on track to achieve its 2020 pledge, assuming full implementation of planned measures as of mid-2015,” the report states. “However, more recent independent analysis that takes a range of possible policy changes into account raises questions as to whether the United States will meet its 2020 pledge.”
The UN agency’s conclusions track analysis given in the September farewell press conference of outgoing General Assembly President Peter Thomson.
“Climate change is happening,” Thomson affirmed on Sept. 12.
Alluding to Hurricane Irma’s then-ongoing destruction of the Caribbean, Thomson gave a not-too-veiled dig at Trump’s climate-change skepticism.
“You can deny it until you’re the last man on the planet who doesn’t believe that it’s happening even as your house got blown away, but it’s happening and we have to address it,” he said.
Thomson hinted at the time that the White House’s official statements might not track the State Department’s back channel diplomacy.
“We had very positive signals given to us in the South Pacific about the U.S. administration’s willingness to stay engaged in this process,” he told reporters months ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.