Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum. The Swedish 16-year-old has galvanised protests by high-schoolers in Europe, Japan and the US demanding stronger government action to fight global warming. Picture: AFP/AFPTV/ELOI ROUYER AND AGNÈS PEDRERO
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum. The Swedish 16-year-old has galvanised protests by high-schoolers in Europe, Japan and the US demanding stronger government action to fight global warming. Picture: AFP/AFPTV/ELOI ROUYER AND AGNÈS PEDRERO

New York — An architect of the Paris Agreement on climate change thanked US President Donald Trump yesterday for his policies supportive of fossil-fuel industries, because they effectively provoked companies, investors and cities into cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Every time we hear yet another inexplicable attack on someone or something or some social value or some environmental value, it causes the opposite reaction,” said former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres at a Bloomberg conference held in Davos during the World Economic Forum (WEF).

She calls Trump’s White House “the dark house” because of what she describes as an executive mansion absent of enlightened policy.

Figueres, who operates an initiative called Global Optimism, said research since late 2015 has shown there to be a more substantial difference than diplomats were aware of between their high- and low-end warming goals.

An October report by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for the first time, addressed how keeping warming to the more ambitious goal of 1.5ºC would affect temperature, sea-level rise, drought and precipitation relative to a hotter world. Business-as-usual emissions would push the planet past 4ºC — well beyond what scientists have long considered to be dangerous.

“Unfortunately, the US is no longer the reference point in the world for climate action,” said Johan Rockstrom, an Earth system scientist and incoming co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who appeared with Figueres.

The two supported a strategy report last year that suggested how nations, companies and individuals can meet the extraordinarily ambitious goal of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

They appeared with Suzanne DiBianca, executive vice-president for corporate relations and chief philanthropy officer at Salesforce.com. She described a three-pronged approach to corporate sustainability that includes transparency, entrepreneurship, and cleaning-up operations, including supply chains. She oversees a $50m investment fund that is expected to double next year.

DiBianca said that recent US actions in the climate arena motivated both Salesforce and her personally to accelerate their transformation into a clean-economy company.

“The second thing I see that has been a huge gift, as a result of the [US] federal government stepping aside, is cities,” she said. “The leadership of cities has been incredibly impressive, and I don’t think, probably, would have taken such direct, fast action if they were waiting for federal programmes.”

Bloomberg