Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Donald Trump ready to withdraw from Paris climate agreement, reports say

Trump tweets that he will be announcing decision ‘over the next few days’, withdrawal would sorely weaken landmark deal by nearly 200 countries
 Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he would reach a final decision in a few days, shortly after a wave of reports said he was about to exit from the deal.

Donald Trump is poised to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, according to multiple reports on Wednesday, in a move that would profoundly undermine the landmark agreement by nearly 200 countries to curtail global warming.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he would reach a final decision in a few days, shortly after a wave of reports that he was about to exit from the deal. The reports follow his refusal to express support for global efforts to combat climate change at a G7 summit with European leaders last week.

Should the US exit from the Paris agreement, which was negotiated and ratified under Barack Obama, the country would join only Syria and Nicaragua as non-participants. The US had previously committed to a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025.

The Trump administration has been divided on the issue, with the EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, and Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon among the conservative hardliners who have been in favor of a US exit from the deal. Axios, which first reported on Trump’s intention to exit the deal on Wednesday, said the details were being ironed out by a team led by Pruitt.

Trump has dubbed climate change a hoax, and once tweeted that global warming was a concept “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. The US president nonetheless faced immense pressure during his first foreign trip since taking office to uphold the pact –from world leaders and Pope Francis, who gave Trump his papal encyclical on climate change during their meeting at the Vatican.

But the efforts to persuade Trump were “very unsatisfactory”, according to the German chancellor ,Angela Merkel, who observed: “Here we have the situation that six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one.”

As with many of Trump’s major decisions, news of his pending move leaked through anonymous sources that gave way to a reality TV-style narrative playing out before the public. The competing in-house factions were reportedly at war, with Pruitt and Bannon up against Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, who despite attempts to paint themselves as moderating influences on the president so far have little to show for it.

Some observers interpreted the spectacle as a trial balloon, by which officials were seeking to nudge Trump in either direction based on the reaction in the press. In the early weeks of Trump’s presidency, anonymous executive orders were often floated – such as on reversing protections for federal LGBT workers or lifting sanctions on Russia – that ultimately did not come to fruition. Trump has often relished the suspense, which, as with his decision on a supreme court nominee, or even the selection of his vice-president, signalled he was open to changing his mind at the last minute.

But to environmental advocates, the threat of climate change was too grave to treat as a mere idea to be tossed back and forth.

“Today’s rumors from unnamed sources at the White House are an indication that some of President Trump’s ideology-driven advisers are trying to bounce him into withdrawal from the Paris agreement,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

“However, I hope that the president will be swayed instead by the rather sensible advice he is receiving from his secretary of state, his secretary of defense and his chief economic adviser, who have all recommended against withdrawal,” he added, referring to Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Gary Cohn. “It is also clear that many American business chiefs, as well as other world leaders, are making a strong case for continuing to participate in the Paris agreement.”

The environmental activist and author Bill McKibben said if reports were true, the president’s planned move amounted to “an incredibly stupid decision” that would isolate the US not simply among its allies but much of the world.

“It ranks right up there with the worst decisions in American political history,” said McKibben, a regular Guardian contributor. “There’s not a climate scientist in the world who thinks his arguments make sense.”

The US ranks as the world’s second-largest carbon polluter, and initial estimates by universities and thinktanks suggest its withdrawal would add up to 3bn tonnes of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, raising the global temperature by 0.1C to 0.3C by the end of the century.

Environmentalists also fear the ripple effect Trump’s decision might have on other major polluters, such as China and India, who have reiterated their commitment to the accord but could be emboldened to walk away in the face of similar action by the US.

Tillerson, the secretary of state, has urged the US to remain in the accord, which is backed by a majority of the American public. And while other countries have vowed to press on, with or without the US, its absence would leave the enforcement of the deal in a flux. The consequences would be especially profound for coastal cities facing rising sea levels, the protection of endangered species, and areas around the world already suffering from heatwaves and food insecurity.

Trump has taken action in recent months to weaken the environmental legacy of the Obama administration by paving the way to overturn rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions and protect American waterways from pollution. During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to “cancel” the Paris accord within his first 100 days of office.


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