UPDATE March 3, 13:50 ET: In response to this New York Times story, a White House spokesperson said a decision on the Paris Agreement is not likely next week. “While Paris remains under discussion in the administration, the White House is still planning to issue the order next week aimed at upending the power plant rules and some other Obama-era policies, including a freeze on new coal mining leases on federal lands,” Axios reports.
A fiercely divided White House is expected to decide in the next week whether to begin the process of pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement.
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The debate within the new U.S. administration pits senior advisor and Breitbart News alum Stephen Bannon, who favours a pullout, against Secretary of State and ex-ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and first daughter Ivanka Trump, who “fear the move could have broad and damaging diplomatic ramifications,” the New York Times reports.
Trump “wants to make a decision by next week, say people familiar with the White House’s debate on the climate pact, in order to announce his executive order to undo [ex-president Barack] Obama’s climate regulations in conjunction with his plans for the Paris deal.”
That announcement is expected to “start the lengthy legal process of unwinding Obama’s EPA regulations for cutting greenhouse pollution from coal-fired power plants,” the Times notes. “Those regulations are the linchpin of the last administration’s program to meet the nation’s obligations to reduce climate emissions under the Paris agreement.”
But formally abandoning Paris would be another story. No single head of state can “tear up” the Paris deal, as Trump promised on the campaign trail, now that it’s been ratified. But “he could initiate the four-year process to withdraw the world’s largest economy and second-largest climate polluter from the first worldwide deal to tackle global warming,” the paper states. “Such a move would rend a global deal that has been hailed as historic, throwing into question the fate of global climate policy and, diplomats say, the credibility of the United States.”
At last year’s United Nations climate conference in Marrakech, which overlapped the date of the U.S. election, delegates from around the world stressed time and again that the Paris deal, and climate change itself, are bigger than any one country or head of state. And that whatever Trump decides, both the momentum and the economic benefits of the post-carbon transition will continue—even in the U.S., where states, cities, businesses, and civil society are already taking the lead.
The Times report presents a polarized view of the White House deliberations.
“On one side of that debate is Mr. Bannon, who as a former chief executive of Breitbart News published countless articles denouncing climate change as a hoax, and who has vowed to push Mr. Trump to transform all his major campaign promises into policy actions,” writes Times reporter Coral Davenport. She cites a recent Breitbart headline, “President Trump Must Not Wobble on Climate Change — No Matter What Ivanka Says …” written by Bannon ally James Delingpole, who produces the site’s climate policy material.
“On the other side are Ms. Trump, Mr. Tillerson, and a slew of foreign policy advisers and career diplomats who argue that the fallout of withdrawing from the accord could be severe, undercutting the United States’ credibility on other foreign policy issues and damaging relations with key allies.” The Times also has “senior Republican voices in the foreign policy debate” encouraging the administration to stay in the Paris deal but keep a low profile.
“There’s really no obligation,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker (R-TN). “It doesn’t require us to do anything. I think they may take a little time to assess whether pulling out makes sense now.”