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Thursday, June 1, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Allies weigh in on possible
US exit from global climate pact
WASHINGTON---US allies around the
world sounded alarms yesterday as Presi-
dentDonald Trump seemed closetopulling
the United States out of the landmark Paris
climate accord. Trump himself kept every-
one in suspense on the question of staying
or leaving, saying he was still listening to
"a lot of people both ways" but promising
a decision "very soon."
The White House signaled that Trump was
likely to decide on exiting the global pact --- ful-
filling one of his principal campaign pledges
--- though top aides were deeply divided. And
the final decision may not be entirely clear-cut:
Aides were still deliberating on "caveats in the
language," one official said.
Everyone cautioned that no decision was final
until Trump announced it. The president has
been known to change his thinking on major
decisions and tends to seek counsel from both
inside and outside advisers, many with differing
agendas, until the last minute.
Abandoning the pact would isolate the US
from a raft of international allies who spent years
negotiating the 2015 agreement to fight glob-
al warming and pollution by reducing carbon
emissions in nearly 200 nations. While trav-
elling abroad last week, Trump was repeatedly pressed
to stay in the deal by European leaders and the Vatican.
Withdrawing would leave the United States aligned only
with Russia among the world's industrialised economies.
American corporate leaders have also appealed to the
businessman-turned-president to stay. They include
Apple, Google and Walmart. Even fossil fuel companies
such as Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell say the United States
should abide by the deal.
Trump's predecessor Barack Obama enacted the deal
without US Senate ratification. A formal withdrawal would
take years, experts say, a situation that led the president
of the European Commission to speak dismissively of
Trump on Wednesday. Trump doesn't "comprehensively
understand" the terms of the accord, though European
leaders tried to explain the process for withdrawing to
him "in clear, simple sentences" during summit meetings
last week, Jean-Claude Juncker said in Berlin. "It looks
like that attempt failed,"Juncker said. "This notion, 'I am
Trump, I am American, America first and I am getting
out,' that is not going to happen."
Some of Trump's aides have been searching for a mid-
dle ground --- perhaps by renegotiating the terms of the
agreement --- in an effort to thread the needle between his
base of supporters who oppose the deal and those warn-
ing that a U.S. exit would deal a blow to the fight against
global warming as well as to worldwide U.S. leadership.
That fight has played out within Trump's administration
in an extraordinarily public deliberation.
Trump met Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson, who has favoured remaining in the agreement.
Chief strategist Steve Bannon supports an exit, as does
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott
Pruitt. Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, has
discussed the possibility of changing the US carbon reduc-
tion targets instead of pulling out of the deal completely.
Senior adviser Jared Kushner generally thinks the deal
is bad but still would like to see if emissions targets can
Trump'sinfluential daughter Ivanka Trump's preference
is to stay,but she has made it a priority to establish a review
process so her father would hear from all sides, said a senior
administration official. Like the other officials, that person
was not authorized to describe the private discussions by
name and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Trump
has several options, climate experts said.
The emissions goals are voluntary with no real conse-
quences for countries that fail to meet them. That means
the US could stay in the accord and choose not to hit its
goals or stay in the pact but adjust its targets for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has agreed to reduce
its emissions by 2025 to 26 percent to 28 percent of 2005
levels --- about 1.6 billion tons. "Paris more than anything
is a symbol," said Nigel Purvis, who directed U.S. climate
diplomacy during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush
administrations. Another option, said University of
California, Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather,
would be for Trump to withdraw from the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change, the treaty on
which the Paris accord was based, which would take only
a year. News of Trump's expected decision drew swift
reaction from the United Nations. The organization's main
Twitter page quoted Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
as saying, "Climate change is undeniable. Climate change
is unstoppable. Climate solutions provide opportunities
that are unmatchable."
Scientists say that Earth is likely to reach more danger-
ous levels of warming sooner if the U.S. retreats from its
pledge because America contributes so much to rising
temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could
result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional
carbon dioxide in the air a year --- enough to melt ice sheets
faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weath-
er. The Sierra Club's executive director, Michael Brune,
called the expected move a "historic mistake which our
grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at
how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and
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