The outgoing U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change says China and other countries are expected to stay committed to the Paris Agreement, regardless of what the next U.S. administration decides.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has said he believes climate change is a hoax, and he pledged during his election campaign to "cancel" U.S. participation in last year's agreement, in which nearly 200 countries agreed to place limits on global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Agreement went into effect this month after enough governments formally accepted its terms.
At climate talks in Morocco, U.S. Special Envoy Jonathan Pershing said in the coming weeks officials expect personnel from Trump's transition team to arrive at the Department of State and begin planning the shape and thrust of American diplomacy for the next four years.
Pershing said in every agreement there are provisions on how a person or country may withdraw from it.
"It takes a fair amount of time in this one,” he said. “The process requires a three-year waiting period, and then a year between notification and action. That's the Paris Agreement process. But I also know there's flexibility for a country, and the new administration may take advantage of that flexibility in its action."
Pershing said the new administration could take a better look at the commitment globally, then decide how it can move forward in ways that are consistent with its own policies.
The diplomat said he cannot predict the future U.S. involvement in the agreement, but said Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua told him China "intends to move forward.''
"I'm hearing the same from the Europeans. I'm hearing the same from the Brazilians. I'm hearing the same from Mexico, and from Canada, and from smaller nations like Costa Rica and from Colombia," he added.
The Paris Agreement on climate change legally took effect November 4. The landmark agreement signed last April in Paris is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, most of which are generated by the use of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal or natural gas.
Alongside China, the United States has been a champion of the agreement.
Some experts say Trump could ignore the American emission targets, which they say carry "no penalties."