Donald Trump’s sweeping victory in the US presidential election has revealed a profound shift in the world’s commitment to fixing one of its most intractable problems: climate change.

But it is not the shift that might have been expected after the election of a president who vowed to rip up the Paris climate deal that virtually every nation agreed last December.

Instead, delegates at a UN climate conference in Marrakesh have expressed renewed determination to meet the agreement’s goal to cut fossil fuel pollution enough to curb global warming.

While Mr Trump has derided climate change as a money-making “hoax” invented by China to damage US industry, no leading economy at the two-week talks disputed Beijing’s delegate, Xie Zhenhua, when he said tackling the phenomenon was “a global trend that is irreversible”. Mr Xie added that “a wise leader will follow the global trend”.

United front

Envoys from the EU, Japan, Africa, Latin America and even the oil-rich Middle East all joined in a chorus of commitment to the Paris deal.

“We’re committed to staying the course,” Antonio Marcondes, a Brazilian delegate, said after a meeting of large developed countries including India and China. “It makes sense politically. It makes sense economically and it makes sense socially, so that’s what we will continue to do.”

Liu Zhenmin, Beijing’s vice foreign minister, took a swipe at Mr Trump’s claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax, saying climate negotiations were initiated in the 1980s with the backing of the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior.

Alexander Bedritskiy, the head of Russia’s delegation and a climate adviser to President Vladimir Putin, said on Friday that “the whole world” needed to work together on climate action and Moscow would stick with its Paris deal commitments “even if others don’t”.

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Paris accord ratified

Both Australia and Britain formally ratified the Paris accord in the wake of the US election result.

Despite the seemingly united front, signs of the difficulties that could lie ahead emerged late on Friday as a familiar bout of bickering pushed the final day of the Marrakesh meeting into overtime.

The unwieldy process of negotiating agreement among nearly 200 nations means UN climate meetings rarely ever end on time and some of the disputes on Friday centred on rules for implementing the Paris agreement that are not due to take effect for at least another year.

But far more serious divisions could easily occur in future if Mr Trump acts on his campaign vows to end US funding for UN climate programs, a move that could strain the agreement’s requirement for wealthy countries to help fund poorer nations to cut their emissions.

That in turn could undermine the accord’s aim to ensure countries progressively ratchet up their climate action plans every five years. The pledges made for the deal so far are not nearly enough to meet its overarching goal to keep future global temperature rises “well below” 2 degrees from pre-industrial times, and 1.5 degrees if possible. The UN says they will probably lead to a rise of up to 3.4 degrees this century.

But the response to Mr Trump’s election still underlines how much has changed since Washington last abandoned a global climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol treaty, in 2001.

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Scepticism about the need to cut the use of fossil fuels, the lifeblood of most economies, was more widespread back then, not least in the world’s two largest emitters, China and the US.

It was sometimes joked that China thought global warming was a capitalist plot created to undermine communism, while the US thought it was a socialist ploy to emasculate the West.

At that time, alternatives to fossil fuels, such as solar power and wind farms, were deemed unaffordable for all but the richest nations. But costs have plummeted by as much as two-thirds since 2010 and in 2015, developing nations for the first time invested more in renewables than developed countries.

Although solar and wind still accounted for less than 5 per cent of global power generation last year, and many south-east Asian countries are planning to build more coal power stations, the growth of renewables shows little sign of stalling. China alone has been installing two wind turbines every hour and last year, renewables overtook coal as the world’s largest source of installed power capacity. The green energy sector now employs an estimated 9.2 million people worldwide, a number that would more than double by 2030 if current growth rates continue.

Shift in attitudes

The attitudes of some of the world’s largest companies and investors have also altered since 2001.

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Dozens of large corporations, from India’s Tata Motors to Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs in the US, have pledged to get 100 per cent of their energy from renewable sources. Others, such as Walmart, plan to cut their emissions in line with the targets of the Paris agreement itself.

Oil and gas companies have also abandoned their past approach to the climate debate, which ranged from indifference to hostility.

On the eve of the Marrakesh meeting, 10 large oil groups, including Saudi Aramco, Shell and BP, said they would spend $US1 billion over the next 10 years on carbon capture systems and other measures to cut emissions. That is a small amount compared with the $US348 billion spent on clean energy last year alone but it still underlines a shift that was not evident 15 years ago.

Such moves have come as a growing number of investors have started pushing energy companies to disclose more about the physical and financial risks that climate change poses to their operations.

Against that background, many delegates in Marrakesh said they found it hard to imagine any country would ignore the global consensus on the need to tackle climate change.

“I have met ministers from nearly every major economy here and everyone is committed to the Paris agreement,” said Mattlan Zackhras, the Marshall Islands’ climate minister. “Going it alone will not work.”