QUIT PARIS PACT?

Lead­ers grow­ing weary of US’s flip-flops in cut­ting green­house gas emis­sions, write and

New Straits Times - - News - The writ­ers are jour­nal­ists of ‘The New York Times’

PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump de­clined to en­dorse the Paris cli­mate ac­cords on Satur­day. He re­fused to bend on the pact after three days of con­tentious pri­vate de­bate and in­tense lob­by­ing by other lead­ers that be­gan on Wed­nes­day with an ap­peal by Pope Francis.

The six other na­tions in the Group of 7 reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to cut­ting green­house­gas emis­sions in a joint state­ment is­sued on Satur­day.

The stale­mate leaves the coun­try’s fu­ture role in the cli­mate ac­cord in flux, although Trump promised to make a de­ci­sion in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 sig­na­to­ries to pull out.

Trump left Italy on Satur­day af­ter­noon after a nine-day trip to the Mid­dle East and Europe.

The cli­mate ac­cord was the most vivid sign of divi­sion be­tween the US and its al­lies.

“There was a lot of give-and­take be­tween the coun­tries in the room,” said Gary D. Cohn, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil.

But he in­sisted that the other coun­tries un­der­stood Trump’s re­fusal to de­cide now, even if they did not sup­port that po­si­tion.

“The pres­i­dent’s only been in of­fice for a cer­tain pe­riod of time, and they re­spect that,” Cohn said.

He added: “We’re all al­lies. We’re all try­ing to get to the right place and be re­spect­ful of each other.”

While Trump’s de­ci­sion was not a sur­prise, the re­ac­tion was swift and crit­i­cal.

“Pres­i­dent Trump’s con­tin­ued waf­fling on whether to stay in or with­draw from the Paris Agree­ment made it im­pos­si­ble to reach con­sen­sus at the Taormina sum­mit on the need for am­bi­tious cli­mate ac­tion. But he stands in stark iso­la­tion,” said Alden Meyer, di­rec­tor of strat­egy and pol­icy at the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists.

The lead­ers of Ger­many and France ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment, ac­cord­ing to The Associated Press.

“The whole dis­cus­sion about cli­mate was very dif­fi­cult, not to say un­sat­is­fac­tory,” Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel of Ger­many said.

“There’s a sit­u­a­tion where it’s six — if you count the Euro­pean Union, seven — against one.”

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of France said he had told Trump it was “in­dis­pens­able for the rep­u­ta­tion of the US and for the Amer­i­cans them­selves that the Amer­i­cans re­main com­mit­ted” to the cli­mate agree­ment.

The G7 state­ment pro­vides the US more time to re­solve in­ter­nal White House de­bates about whether to pull out of the pact.

It says the US is “in the process of re­view­ing its poli­cies on cli­mate change and on the Paris Agree­ment, and thus, is not in a po­si­tion to join the con­sen­sus on these top­ics”.

The pres­i­dent did not men­tion the im­passe in his only pub­lic re­marks after the sum­mit to US troops at Naval Air Sta­tion Sigonella in Si­cily.

“We hit a home run no mat­ter where we are,” he said.

For Trump, how­ever, the lack of a de­ci­sion on the cli­mate ac­cord put an un­cer­tain end­ing on an am­bi­tious first pres­i­den­tial trip abroad that be­gan as a respite from the sur­feit of scan­dal at home.

In a mes­sage on Twit­ter on Satur­day, he said: “I will make my fi­nal de­ci­sion on the Paris Ac­cord next week!”

There is an in­tense de­bate in­side the West Wing over whether to with­draw from the ac­cord or to try to rene­go­ti­ate its terms, pit­ting hard­line na­tion­al­ists, like chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non, against more main­stream ad­vis­ers like Cohn.

On Thurs­day, Cohn told re­porters that Trump’s think­ing on the sub­ject was “evolv­ing”.

But other senior of­fi­cials said even if the US re­mained in the agree­ment, it could ef­fec­tively gut its prin­ci­ples.

The exit of the US, the world’s sec­ond largest green­house gas emit­ter after China, would not im­me­di­ately dis­solve the pact, which was ne­go­ti­ated un­der pres­i­dent Barack Obama and legally rat­i­fied last year.

But it would pro­foundly weaken the strength of the deal and pave the way for other coun­tries to with­draw from it.

Some cli­mate diplo­mats said the rest of the world was grow­ing weary of Amer­ica’s back-and­forth on cli­mate change pol­icy.

In 1997, the US joined the world’s first cli­mate treaty, the Ky­oto Pro­to­col, but later with­drew dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“At some junc­ture, other coun­tries are go­ing to get sick of us join­ing in, pulling out, join­ing in and pulling out and say, ‘Are we re­ally go­ing to work with the US on this any more?'” said Michael Op­pen­heimer, a pro­fes­sor of geo­sciences and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs at Prince­ton.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (fourth from left) speak­ing dur­ing a meet­ing of G7 lead­ers in Taormina, Italy, on Satur­day.

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