Environment

Trump Team Sharply Divided Over Paris Climate Agreement

As the world's largest economy, the United States' withdrawal from the accord could significantly weaken the global pact.

Climate activists at the COP21 UN climate summit in Paris, France, stage a protest calling for "Climate Justice Now." (December 1, 2015.)
Photo Credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump's top advisors and cabinet officials will debate whether the U.S. should pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

The landmark accord, which aims to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, was agreed upon by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

The Hill reported that the meeting is aimed at hammering out a growing divide in the administration between those in favor of the deal and those opposed to it. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday but had to be postponed as some participants are traveling with the president to Milwaukee. 

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to " cancel" the Paris climate agreement. The president, who once said climate change is a "hoax" and is working to dismantle environmental regulations, has surrounded himself with like-minded advisors and cabinet appointees such as senior adviser Steve Bannon and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who said last week "we need to exit" the deal.

POLITICO's sources said that the EPA chief is concerned that the Paris agreement could harm his legal position as he works to repeal President Obama's Clean Power Plan that regulates emissions from power plants. 

On the other hand, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House special adviser, have are urged the president to stay in the deal, as Bloomberg reported. 

Trump's current position on the Paris deal is unclear, but the New York Times reported that the pro-Paris view is gaining favor.

"We do not currently believe the Trump administration plans to withdraw from either Paris agreement," wrote Kevin Book, an analyst at DC-based ClearView Energy Partners in a memo to clients on Monday.

Incidentally, some major oil and coal producers have voiced support of the climate agreement, including Cheniere Energy Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., which was previously led by Tillerson, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc.  

Coal baron Robert E. Murray, however, has opposed the deal as "just a way for other countries to get American money." 

And Joseph Bast, the president of the climate change-denying Heartland Institute, commented that "President Trump should run, not walk, away from the Paris climate treaty." 

"Most scientists do not believe global warming is a crisis that merits current efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much less the draconian cuts envisioned by the Paris climate treaty," Bast said. 

As Trump mulls the decision, other world leaders are prepared to ramp action in case the U.S. pulls out. 

"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang. 

Similarly, Piyush Goyal, the Indian Minister for power and coal said that India is "pursuing religiously" its goal of developing 225 gigawatts of clean energy by 2022, adding "it's not subject to some other country's decision." 

Environmental groups have also weighed in on the deliberations. As the world's largest economy, the United States' withdrawal from the accord could significantly weaken the global pact. 

"The United States is the world's largest historic climate polluter," said Friends of the Earth senior political director Ben Schreiber. "Our country has a moral imperative to take action proportionate to our responsibility for this crisis."

"Our commitments under the Paris Agreement were already woefully inadequate given our responsibility and the severity of the problem," Schreiber added. "By holding this meeting, Trump has communicated to the rest of the world that the U.S. is a climate pariah. We call on world leaders to use every political and economic means available to compel Trump to act in accordance with what climate science and justice demand."

The White House meeting comes as activists gear up for the April 29 Peoples Climate March in the nation's capitol and in sister marches around the country.

"An overwhelming majority of people in the United States support staying in the Paris agreement," 350.org executive director May Boeve. "It's one of the animating reasons why so many people are joining the Peoples Climate March this April 29thin Washington, DC and across the country."

"As the Trump administration deliberates isolating the U.S. from the rest of the world, movements for climate, jobs and justice are mobilizing to continue to build bold solutions that protect our communities and tackle climate change," Boeve said. "We know this deal is critical to defending our climate and communities—this is about our very survival."

White House Press Sec. Sean Spicer said last month that Trump will make a decision about the Paris agreement ahead of the Group of 7 leaders' meeting in late May.

 

Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.

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