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UN Official Mobilizes to Enact Climate Agreement Despite US Withdrawal

FILE - Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak speaks during a security conference in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 25, 2016. Lajack is also president of the current session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Miroslav Lajcak, president of the 72nd session of the U.N. General Assembly, has an ambitious agenda of global issues he wishes to focus on in the coming year, and moving the implementation of the Paris climate change agreement forward is one of his top priorities.

The Slovak diplomat told VOA the U.S. government's decision to withdraw from the agreement was regrettable, but he noted that the resolution had energized other U.N. member states to press harder for the accord's enactment.

He said 40 countries would present their national plans for curbing greenhouse gas emissions during the assembly session.

Following the Trump administration's declaration that it intended to withdraw, he said, French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed his government would continue to be a global leader on this issue.

"So, I really hope that we will be able to mobilize probably even stronger support behind that agreement," Lajcak said. "And, the truth is that with recent natural disasters and hurricanes in the Caribbean area, I think it is quite clear that climate change is a real danger that is affecting the lives of people, and we have to do something about it. And, the Paris climate agreement is the best platform for that."

Peacekeeping funds

Another of Lajcak's priorities is to prevent conflicts. U.N. peacekeepers play a pivotal role in that. Again, Lajcak said he regretted the U.S. decision to cut its share of the U.N.'s peacekeeping missions, but he told VOA he thought there would be no gap in financing.

The shortfall "will not be that significant, and there are member states who have already announced their readiness to cover," he said. "So, there is no reason to be afraid that our peacekeeping operation will be underfunded."

This year's peacekeeping budget is $7.8 billion. The U.S. share of that cost is more than 28 percent, or $2.2 billion. U.S. President Donald Trump has announced a 3 percent cut, or $600 million, in the U.S. contribution to the peacekeeping operation.