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U.S. backers of Paris accord set up camp at climate talks

KATOWICE, Poland — Hundreds of U.S. cities, states, businesses and churches planted the American flag at the U.N. climate talks Friday in an effort to show that many people in the United States remain committed to curbing global warming despite the stance of their president.

The opening of the U.S. Climate Action Center alongside pavilions from Britain, Poland and New Zealand contrasts with the low-key presence of the official U.S. government delegation at the two weeks of talks in Poland.

Envoys from the administration of U.S. President Trump, who has announced a U.S. withdrawal from the landmark 2015 Paris climate change accord, are holed up in a cubicle away from the main concourse. They currently have one public event planned Monday promoting U.S. technological innovations.

The Climate Action Center is backed by a group called We Are Still In that wants to maintain the Paris climate deal's aim of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

California billionaire Tom Steyer, who is considered a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate , said the United States has to return to leading the world in tackling climate change. He urged environmental activists not to lose sight of the wider concerns of American voters in the coming years if they want political change.

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Tom Steyer speaks at the U.S. Climate Action Center in Katowice, Poland, on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Frank Jordans / AP

"The way that we're going to win on climate is not by talking exclusively about climate but by being in coalition with people across the board on justice," he said.

Negotiators from almost 200 countries have little time left to bridge their differences before ministers arrive at the U.N. talks in Katowice next week for a final frantic round of diplomacy. The environmental group Climate Action Network on Friday awarded its tongue-in-cheek Fossil of the Day award to Germany for abandoning its 2020 target on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for failing to support more ambitious European Union-wide targets for 2030.

It also noted that Germany is doing little to curb emissions in its transport sector and has yet to set a fixed date for ending its reliance on coal. German officials declined to comment on the award.

A report from the federal government last month said Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The National Climate Assessment warned that extreme weather and climate-related events in America are worsening.

World carbon dioxide emissions hit record level 04:36
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