The Trump administration failed to reach a decision on whether to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement, after a long-awaited and much-delayed White House meeting Thursday afternoon.
“Donald Trump made cancelling the Paris agreement part of his 100-day plan for energy policy,” Reuters recalls. That deadline runs out tomorrow at midnight, though the news agency notes that Trump “later said he was open to staying in the pact if Washington got better terms.”
According to news reports, the meeting pitted Secretary of State and ex-ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, all of whom favour staying in the deal, against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who want to walk away.
The group is expected to meet again next month, in a bid to reach a decision before G7 leaders meet in Taormina, Italy. Media reports have consistently stressed that the final U.S. decision on Paris will rest with Trump.
In the days leading up to the meeting, a range of options were on the table, with the Washington Post reporting that the White House was “at war with itself about climate change.” Some senior administration officials had been pushing for weeks to have the U.S. withdraw from the landmark UN agreement, and there had been some talk of stepping away from the 1992 Rio Declaration under which Paris and many other international agreements were forged.
“Those who advocate staying in suggest that the administration can scale back the amount of foreign climate assistance the United States has pledged to provide under the deal, and push countries such as China and India to commit to deeper emissions reductions,” the Post noted. “Opponents argue that that strategy is unrealistic.” Speculation leading up to today’s meeting had also centred on whether the U.S. would water down its own voluntary commitments under the Paris agreement.
Earlier in the week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the U.S. should seek to reopen the intricately-crafted Paris deal rather than walking away from it. “I’m not going to tell the President of the United States let’s just walk away from the Paris accord,” he told a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. “But what I’m going to say is we probably need to renegotiate.”
It’s a good bet the White House meeting did not focus on the half-billion extra tonnes of carbon the U.S. is expected to emit by 2025 as a result of Trump’s efforts to unwind Obama-era climate policies.
“We found that the ‘Trump Effect’ really begins to bite into the U.S. emissions trajectory in 2025—since many of the factors influencing today’s emissions trajectory can’t be reversed quickly,” Washington, DC-based Climate Advisers concluded in a report issued earlier this week. The study identified “highly vulnerable” rules like the Clean Power Plan, methane regulations for oil and gas, and energy efficiency standards, whose repeal would wipe out 332 megatonnes of savings, InsideClimate News reports. A second category of “moderately vulnerable” regulations, like landfill emission controls and the hydrofluorocarbon phaseout, would account for another 229 megatonnes.
The failed attempt at a White House decision followed intensive lobbying on multiple fronts, as technology and fossil giants and 21 members of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus urged Trump to stay in the Paris agreement.
“U.S. business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced global response,” wrote a group that included Apple, BHP Billiton, BP, General Mills, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and National Grid, among others. “We believe the Paris Agreement provides such a framework.” The companies based their letter on concerns for competitiveness, sound investment, job creation, cost minimization, and reduced business risk.
“The world’s leading nations must work together to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change,” the 21 Members of Congress wrote. America’s commitment to cut emissions 26-28% by 2025 is achievable, they added, and Paris “gives us the chance to negotiate deals with other countries on greenhouse gas reductions and verify that everyone is keeping up with their pledges, without sacrificing our independence or self-interest.”