BONN, Germany—The United States won't have its top two negotiators at the international climate conference here as the talks enter a crucial period in their final days.

State Department Office of Global Change Director Trigg Talley had to leave the talks early this week due to a family emergency, and yesterday, the State Department announced that Undersecretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon would also miss the talks due to a family emergency.

Judith Garber, a career official who is now State's acting assistant secretary for oceans, environment and science, will arrive in Bonn today to lead the U.S. delegation into its final stretch.

Garber, an experienced diplomat who lacks a direct background in climate negotiations, will be aided by an unusually small U.S. delegation. The official count for the delegation is 48, but that includes a group of senators who visited the talks earlier this week to criticize President Trump for not doing more to address rising temperatures.

The staffing situation would be more consequential if this year's talks were more intense, but Bonn was always intended to be a process Conference of the Parties devoted to writing the rulebook for the Paris Agreement. And Trump's announced departure from the deal renders the U.S. delegation less powerful and less essential than it usually is.

Experts here applauded the news that Garber would be leading the delegation. She was the State Department staff's initial choice for that task.

Andrew Light, a former senior State negotiator who is now at the World Resources Institute, commended the move.

"She ran the Oceans, Environment and Science bureau at State for most of Secretary [John] Kerry's tenure, and knows these issues inside and out," he said. "I expect her to protect the ability of the U.S. negotiators to dig in for the home stretch, continuing to complete and refine the agreement that most of them had a hand in crafting."

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at