Beijing’s policies have seen China invest heavily in renewables and support the UN’s first major climate pact – but without US cover it will face new scrutiny this year

(Pic: GovernmentZA/Flickr)

(Pic: GovernmentZA/Flickr)

It’s impossible to look beyond the bronzed facade of Donald Trump when evaluating what 2017 holds for efforts to tackle climate change.

The incoming US president has offered clues but little detail on how he will tackle the issue once he assumes power on 20 January.

During the campaign he promised to “cancel” the Paris climate deal and roll back Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. More worryingly since the election, Trump has appointed a slew of climate sceptics and oil enthusiasts to his cabinet.

Now comes power, and with it… responsibility? That’s the hope of Michael Zammit Cutajar, the UN’s top climate official from 1991-2002.

Tackling climate change requires a “long-term vision of economic and geopolitical interests,” he tells Climate Home – Trump can’t continue to indulge in “short-term posturing to the populist gallery”.

Isaac Valero Ladron, advisor to the EU climate chief Miguel Arias Canete and a veteran on the international climate circuit says he hopes US engagement will be “constructive”.

Why Trump’s #climate impact could be vanishingly small – fascinating analysis by @Revkin

— Climate Home (@ClimateHome) December 30, 2016

The big fear among climate campaigners in Washington DC is that Trump will announce he’s pulling out of the Paris deal on day one as a sop to his right-wing base.

“We just need to keep us in for the next four years,” said a Democrat source who was close to the Obama White House, evidently hopeful that Trump would only see through one term.

Quitting Paris takes four years. Leaving the UN’s climate body – the UNFCCC – takes just one, although it would be unprecedented, a former George W Bush advisor told Bloomberg BNA.

“The only thing that Trump said during the campaign was that Paris was a problem, and I just haven’t heard boo about the UNFCCC,” said Jim Connaughton.

“Momentum” is a word used by many of the experts asked by Climate Home to sum up their hopes for 2017, a desire to see global efforts upped a notch.

“We need to move rapidly move into implementation of the Paris Agreement,” says Saleemul Huq, a Bangladeshi climate analyst and director of Dhaka-based ICAAD.

Report: Countries hit by climate change pledge to go 100% renewable

Whatever Trump does, it’s evident from his cabinet picks that the US won’t be the proactive arbiter of climate deals it was under Obama’s second term.

That leaves space for other – perhaps unlikely – leaders, says Athena Ballesteros, negotiator…