Min­is­ter hope­ful U.S. can be per­suaded back to Paris agree­ment

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OT­TAWA En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna says there is still time to con­vince the United States not to with­draw from the Paris climate change ac­cord and an un­ex­pected meet­ing sched­uled for New York next week might be the first step in that di­rec­tion.

McKenna is one of about a dozen en­vi­ron­ment and climate min­is­ters from the world’s largest economies who were sud­denly in­vited by White House chief eco­nomic ad­viser Gary Cohn to dis­cuss climate at a break­fast in New York on Mon­day.

In­vi­ta­tions de­scribed it as an op­por­tu­nity for an “in­for­mal ex­change of views and dis­cuss how we can move for­ward most pro­duc­tively” on climate change.

The meet­ing is be­ing taken by some as an olive branch from a White House whose chief oc­cu­pant has said climate change is a hoax and who an­nounced in June he in­tended to with­draw the United States from the Paris ac­cord un­less it can be rene­go­ti­ated in favour of the U.S.

“It’s cer­tainly a sign that the White House is look­ing at how they can move for­ward on this is­sue,” McKenna told The Cana­dian Press in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day.

Cohn, a reg­is­tered Demo­crat, is one of the few peo­ple in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion with a pub­lic stance in favour of climate change sci­ence.

How­ever a for­mer spe­cial ad­viser on en­vi­ron­ment and en­ergy to for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama says there is no rea­son for op­ti­mism about the meet­ing.

“Frankly I think this is Gary Cohn play­ing at mak­ing pol­icy-mak­ing be­cause we have seen no ev­i­dence that he has any in­flu­ence on the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said Nathaniel Keo­hane, now the vice-pres­i­dent of the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund.

“When it counted, Pres­i­dent Trump went the other way. I would love to be wrong but I don’t see any ev­i­dence that I’m wrong.”

Just last week Trump bragged to sup­port­ers in North Dakota about pulling out of Paris.

The Paris ac­cord was signed by 195 coun­tries in De­cem­ber 2015 to com­mit coun­tries to work­ing to­wards keep­ing global warm­ing to less than two de­grees Cel­sius above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els.

McKenna noted no­body can for­mally sig­nal in­ten­tion to with­draw un­til 2019 and can’t ac­tu­ally with­draw un­til 2020.

“I think there is still time to have a con­ver­sa­tion and make the same ar­gu­ments that you know, the same rea­sons why we be­lieve climate ac­tion makes sense,” she said.

Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, has pub­lic ques­tioned climate change sci­ence. He will not be at the Mon­day meet­ing with Cohn.

Nei­ther will he at­tend a meet­ing in Mon­treal this week­end, where Canada, China and the Euro­pean Union will jointly host min­is­ters and of­fi­cials from 30 coun­tries, in­clud­ing France, Ger­many and the United King­dom, to dis­cuss a path for­ward for the Paris agree­ment.

CP PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna says there is still time to con­vince the United States not to with­draw from the Paris climate change ac­cord and an un­ex­pected meet­ing sched­uled for New York next week might be the first step in that di­rec­tion.

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