Trump ad­vis­ers di­vided on Paris cli­mate ac­cord

Pres­i­dent mulls whether to exit Paris agree­ment.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Coral Daven­port ©2017 The New York Times

WASH­ING­TON — The White House is fiercely di­vided over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign prom­ise to “can­cel” the Paris agree­ment, the 2015 ac­cord that binds nearly ev­ery coun­try to curb global warm­ing, with more mod­er­ate voices main­tain­ing that he should stick with the agree­ment de­spite his cam­paign pledge.

Stephen Ban­non, Trump’s se­nior ad­viser, is press­ing the pres­i­dent to of­fi­cially pull the United States from the land­mark ac­cord, but he is clash­ing with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and the pres­i­dent’s daugh­ter Ivanka, who fear the move could have broad and dam­ag­ing diplo­matic ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

Trump vowed on the cam­paign trail to tear up Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s global warm­ing poli­cies, and on the home front he is moving ag­gres­sively to meet those pledges with deep cuts to the Environmental Pro­tec­tion Agency and a new EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor, Scott Pruitt, who is a skep­tic of cli­mate science.

Next week, Trump plans to sign an ex­ec­u­tive or­der di­rect­ing Pruitt to start the lengthy le­gal process of un­wind­ing Obama’s EPA reg­u­la­tions for cut­ting green­house pol­lu­tion from coal­fired power plants. Those reg­u­la­tions are the linch­pin of the last ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­gram to meet the na­tion’s obli­ga­tions to re­duce cli­mate emis­sions un­der the Paris agree­ment.

While the pres­i­dent can­not, as Trump sug­gested, uni­lat­er­ally undo a 194-na­tion ac­cord that has been legally rat­i­fied, he could ini­ti­ate the four-year process to with­draw the world’s largest econ­omy and sec­ond-largest cli­mate pol­luter from the first world­wide deal to tackle global warm­ing. Such a move would rend a global deal that has been hailed as his­toric, throw­ing into ques­tion the fate of global cli­mate pol­icy and, diplo­mats say, the cred­i­bil­ity of the United States.

But it would also demon­strate to his sup­port­ers that Trump is a man of his word, putting U.S. coal in­ter­ests ahead of the global deal forged by Obama.

On one side of that de­bate is Ban­non, who as a for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bre­it­bart News pub­lished count­less ar­ti­cles de­nounc­ing cli­mate change as a hoax, and who has vowed to push Trump to trans­form all his ma­jor cam­paign prom­ises into pol­icy ac­tions.

On the other side are Ivanka Trump, Tiller­son, and a slew of for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers and ca­reer diplo­mats who ar­gue that the fall­out of with­draw­ing from the ac­cord could be se­vere, un­der­cut­ting the United States’ cred­i­bil­ity on other for­eign pol­icy is­sues and dam­ag­ing re­la­tions with key al­lies.

Although Ivanka Trump has not spo­ken out pub­licly for ac­tion to com­bat cli­mate change, pro­po­nents and op­po­nents of such ac­tion see her as an ally. For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore met with her dur­ing the Trump tran­si­tion and was ush­ered in by the first daugh­ter to see the pres­i­dent-elect. Ac­tor and ac­tivist Leonardo Di­Caprio even slipped her a DVD copy of his cli­mate-change doc­u­men­tary.

“Pres­i­dent Trump Must Not Wob­ble on Cli­mate Change — No Mat­ter What Ivanka Says ...” was the head­line of a Bre­it­bart post on Mon­day writ­ten by James Del­ing­pole, who is close to Ban­non and who leads the web­site’s cov­er­age of cli­mate-change pol­icy.

Don­ald Trump wants to make a de­ci­sion by next week, say peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the White House’s de­bate on the cli­mate pact, in or­der to an­nounce his ex­ec­u­tive or­der to undo Obama’s cli­mate reg­u­la­tions in con­junc­tion with his plans for the Paris deal.

Ac­cord­ing to leaked bud­get doc­u­ments, the pres­i­dent will also pro­pose killing off nearly two dozen EPA pro­grams, in­clud­ing the Obama-era Clean Power Pro­gram, cli­mate part­ner­ship pro­grams with lo­cal gov­ern­ments, En­ergy Star grants to en­cour­age ef­fi­ciency re­search in con­sumer prod­ucts and cli­mate-change re­search. Those would be part of a broader bud­get sub­mis­sion that would cut the EPA’s fund­ing by 25 per­cent, to around $6.1 bil­lion from $8.2 bil­lion, and its staff by 20 per­cent.

“If the goal is to ful­fill the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign prom­ises and im­ple­ment his agenda, there is no value in stay­ing in Paris,” said Thomas J. Pyle, an ad­viser to the Trump tran­si­tion and pres­i­dent of the In­sti­tute for En­ergy Re­search, an or­ga­ni­za­tion partly funded by bil­lion­aire broth­ers Charles and David Koch, who have worked for years to un­der­mine cli­mate change poli­cies.

Trump has cited Pyle’s group as be­ing in­flu­en­tial in shap­ing his en­ergy and cli­mate pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing his cam­paign pledge to with­draw from the Paris deal.

“The two great­est ob­sta­cles to a Clexit (cli­mate exit from U.N. Paris agree­ment) are prob­a­bly Ivanka and Tiller­son,” wrote Marc Mo­rano, a for­mer Repub­li­can Se­nate staff mem­ber who now runs Cli­mate De­pot, a fos­sil-fuel-in­dus­try-funded web­site that pro­motes the de­nial of cli­mate science, in an email. “Tiller­son with his ‘seat at the table’ views could be big­gest pro­po­nent of not with­draw­ing the U.S. from the agree­ment.”

Tiller­son is a for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Exxon Mo­bil, which, like many ma­jor global cor­po­ra­tions, en­dorsed the Paris agree­ment. While his for­mer com­pany once de­nied hu­man­caused cli­mate change, it has more re­cently pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the threat posed by burn­ing oil and sup­ported pro­pos­als to tax car­bon diox­ide pol­lu­tion.

Asked dur­ing his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing about the Paris ac­cord, Tiller­son said, “It’s important that the U.S. main­tains its seat at the table about how to ad­dress the threat of cli­mate change, which does re­quire a global re­sponse.”

Un­der the Paris agree­ment, ev­ery na­tion has for­mally sub­mit­ted plans de­tail­ing how it ex­pects to lower its planet-warm­ing pol­lu­tion. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pledged that the United States would re­duce its car­bon pol­lu­tion about 26 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2025. How­ever, that pledge de­pends on en­act­ment of Obama’s EPA reg­u­la­tions on coal-fired power plants, which Trump and Pruitt in­tend to sub­stan­tially weaken or elim­i­nate.

But un­der the Paris deal, those numer­i­cal tar­gets are not legally bind­ing, and there are no sanc­tions for fail­ing to meet them. The only le­gal re­quire­ments of the deal are that coun­tries pub­licly put forth their emis­sions re­duc­tions tar­gets, and later put forth re­ports ver­i­fy­ing how they are meet­ing the tar­gets. It would be pos­si­ble for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to stay in the deal and sub­mit a less am­bi­tious tar­get.

For­eign pol­icy ex­perts say with­draw­ing from Paris would have far greater diplo­matic con­se­quences than Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s with­drawal from the world’s first global cli­mate-change ac­cord, the 1997 Ky­oto Pro­to­col.

“I think it would be a ma­jor mis­take, even a his­toric mis­take, to dis­avow the Paris deal,” said Ni­cholas Burns, a re­tired ca­reer diplo­mat and un­der­sec­re­tary of state un­der Bush.

“In in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics, trust, re­li­a­bil­ity and keep­ing your com­mit­ments — that’s a big part of how other coun­tries view our coun­try,” Burns said. “I can’t think of an is­sue, ex­cept per­haps NATO, where if the U.S. sim­ply walks away, it would have such a ma­jor neg­a­tive im­pact on how we are seen.”

STEPHEN CROW­LEY / THE NEW YORK TIMES

New EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt is a skep­tic of cli­mate science. Trump plans to sign an or­der di­rect­ing Pruitt to start the process of un­wind­ing EPA reg­u­la­tions for cut­ting green­house pol­lu­tion from coal-fired power plants.

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