No change in stance on Paris pact, says US

Wash­ing­ton pushes back at Euro­pean sug­ges­tion that it is soft­en­ing its stand on cli­mate ac­cord

The Straits Times - - WORLD -

MON­TREAL The White House has pushed back at a Euro­pean sug­ges­tion that it was soft­en­ing its stance on the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, in­sist­ing that Wash­ing­ton will with­draw from the agree­ment un­less it can re-en­ter on more favourable terms.

The re­mark came as en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ters from some 30 coun­tries gath­ered in Mon­treal, Canada, seek­ing head­way on the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, which US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had pulled out of in June.

At the sum­mit, which was at­tended by a US ob­server, the US “stated that they will not rene­go­ti­ate the Paris Ac­cord, but they (will) try to re­view the terms on which they could be en­gaged un­der this agree­ment,” the Euro­pean Union’s top cli­mate of­fi­cial Miguel Arias Canete said.

Mr Canete said there would be a meet­ing on the side­lines of this week’s UN Gen­eral Assem­bly with Amer­i­can rep­re­sen­ta­tives “to as­sess what is the real US po­si­tion”, not­ing “it’s a mes­sage which is quite dif­fer­ent to the one we heard from Pres­i­dent Trump in the past”.

The US ob­server was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment and the White House in­sisted the US would with­draw from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord with­out more favourable terms. “There has been no change in the US’ po­si­tion on the Paris agree­ment,” White House spokesman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said in an e-mail over the week­end.

“As the Pres­i­dent has made abun­dantly clear, the United States is with­draw­ing un­less we can re-en­ter on terms that are more favourable to our coun­try,” she said.

Called by Canada, China and the EU, the sum­mit took place 30 years to the day af­ter the sign­ing of the Mon­treal Pro­to­col on pro­tect­ing the ozone layer – which Canada’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter hailed as a mul­ti­lat­eral “suc­cess story” by gov­ern­ments, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and or­di­nary cit­i­zens jointly tack­ling a ma­jor global threat.

The sum­mit in Mon­treal was at­tended by more than half the Group of 20 mem­bers as well as some of the na­tions most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change – from the low-ly­ing Mar­shall Is­lands and Mal­dives to im­pov­er­ished Mali and Ethiopia.

“Changes are real, ex­treme weather events are more fre­quent, more pow­er­ful and more dis­tress­ful,” Cana­dian En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna told the gath­er­ing, point­ing at the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by mega-storms such as Har­vey and Irma, which many cli­mate sci­en­tists be­lieve are boosted by global warm­ing.

Nearly 200 coun­tries agreed in Paris in De­cem­ber 2015 to curb car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, with the aim of lim­it­ing the rise in av­er­age global tem­per­a­tures to 1.5 deg C by 2050, com­pared with pre-in­dus­trial lev­els.

When Mr Trump de­cided in June to with­draw, Canada, China and the EU im­me­di­ately reaf­firmed their re­spec­tive com­mit­ments to the pact, which the G-20 de­clared “ir­re­versible” the fol­low­ing month.

China – the world’s largest car mar­ket – brings to the table a po­ten­tially ma­jor ad­vance in trans­porta­tion af­ter an­nounc­ing its in­ten­tion to ban petrol- and diesel-fu­elled cars, af­ter de­ci­sions by France and Bri­tain to out­law their sale from 2040.

The EU – which is tar­get­ing a 40 per cent cut to its emis­sions by 2030 – will also shortly put for­ward a pro- posal to mem­ber states on slash­ing car­bon emis­sions in the trans­porta­tion sec­tor, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker said this week.

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