Trump to with­draw U.S. from cli­mate pact, or not

Word that he is con­sid­er­ing aban­don­ing the 2016 Paris ac­cord draws strong re­ac­tions from state, world and busi­ness lead­ers

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Evan Halper and Alexan­dra Zavis evan.halper@la­times.com alexan­dra.zavis@la­times.com Times staff writer John My­ers in Sacra­mento con­trib­uted to this re­port.

WASH­ING­TON — In­di­ca­tions from White House of­fi­cials that Pres­i­dent Trump was head­ing to­ward pulling the U.S. out of the Paris ac­cord on cli­mate change set off a world­wide re­ac­tion Wed­nes­day, con­tin­u­ing the pub­lic drama around a de­ci­sion that has been ag­o­nized and un­tidy even by the stan­dards of a White House known for palace in­trigue.

The day be­gan with of­fi­cials telling news or­ga­ni­za­tions that Trump had set­tled on pulling out of the cli­mate agree­ment, gen­er­at­ing a re­ac­tion in which peo­ple around the world jumped in to try to in­flu­ence or spin his de­ci­sion, from Euro­pean lead­ers to the coal in­dus­try to the state of Cal­i­for­nia.

That of­fered a fore­taste of the re­ac­tion Trump likely will re­ceive if he does fol­low through on his vow to pull the United States out of the 197-party pact, which Pres­i­dent Obama hailed in 2015 as one of his ma­jor achieve­ments.

Al­ready, other na­tions have moved to take over the lead­er­ship role on cli­mate that the United States would be aban­don­ing. Some states have fol­lowed suit, promis­ing they would break with Wash­ing­ton to work with other coun­tries in their ef­forts to con­tain global warm­ing.

“It can­not stand; it’s not right,” Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown said of the po­ten­tial Trump move away from the agree­ment.

“Cal­i­for­nia will do ev­ery­thing it can not only to stay the course but to build more sup­port in other states, other prov­inces and with other coun­tries,” the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor, who has played a lead­ing role on the is­sue, said in an in­ter­view.

All the pub­lic lob­by­ing moved Trump to weigh in him­self. In a Twit­ter mes­sage, he knocked down the early re­ports that he had al­ready de­cided to with­draw. Later, he told re­porters at a White House event that he would make a de­ci­sion “very soon.”

“I’m hear­ing from a lot of peo­ple, both ways. Both ways,” he said.

White House of­fi­cials were still scram­bling to map out op­tions this week. One pos­si­bil­ity, backed by Trump’s most con­ser­va­tive ad­vi­sors, would be to fully with­draw from the agree­ment.

An­other op­tion would be to keep the U.S. in­volved, but have Trump an­nounce that he will cut back the U.S. com­mit­ment to take ac­tion against cli­mate change. The lat­ter op­tion is fa­vored by some ad­vi­sors, who say it would main­tain a U.S. seat in world­wide cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions while still al­low­ing Trump to de­clare he has kept his prom­ise to scrap the deal.

The de­bate over the Paris agree­ment has split Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency chief Scott Pruitt and White House strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non have ad­vo­cated with­draw­ing from the agree­ment, ar­gu­ing that if the U.S. re­mains part of the ac­cord, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups might be able to use it to shield Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies on global warm­ing that the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion op­poses. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and Trump’s daugh­ter and ad­vi­sor Ivanka Trump have ar­gued for stay­ing with the agree­ment in some fash­ion.

On Trump’s trip to Europe last week, he was heav­ily lob­bied by al­lied lead­ers to keep the U.S. part of the ac­cord.

If Trump does with­draw the U.S. fully from the Paris pact, sci­en­tists warn it will be a sig­nif­i­cant set­back to the world­wide ef­fort to pre­vent tem­per­a­tures from ris­ing by more than an av­er­age of 2 de­grees Cel­sius (or 3.6 de­grees Fahren­heit) above prein­dus­trial lev­els. The con­se­quences for the United States would ex­tend beyond global warm­ing.

“It will be a very big deal all over the world,” said Todd Stern, the lead U.S. cli­mate ne­go­tia­tor dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. “There will be con­se­quen­tial blow­back with re­spect to our diplo­matic po­si­tion across the board.”

The Euro­pean Union and China moved quickly to sig­nal that they will per­sist in the cli­mate fight, re­gard­less of what the United States does. They are ex­pected to reaf­firm their com­mit­ment to the Paris agree­ment at a meet­ing Fri­day in Brus­sels be­tween EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent JeanClaude Juncker and Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang.

What­ever Trump de­cides, “we ex­pect that the EU and China will adopt this state­ment and press ahead,” said a Euro­pean of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the prepa­ra­tions for the sum­mit, speak­ing anony­mously in ac­cor­dance with EU prac­tice.

The prime min­is­ters of Spain and In­dia emerged from talks in Madrid to an­nounce they were un­wa­ver­ing in their com­mit­ment. And Euro­pean diplo­mats are rais­ing the prospect that cli­mate-re­lated trade sanc­tions against the U.S. could be on the hori­zon.

China and the EU would be ea­ger to fill the lead­er­ship vac­uum cre­ated by a U.S. exit, as they ag­gres­sively re­ori­ent their economies around green en­ergy and look to ex­ert greater global in­flu­ence on its ex­pan­sion.

"Our cli­mate ac­tion strat­egy rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to at­tract in­vest­ment, in­no­va­tion and de­velop new green tech­nolo­gies," Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent An­to­nio Ta­jani said in a state­ment. "We have got the tal­ent and the will to make this pos­si­ble in all sec­tors."

U.S. com­pa­nies anx­ious about the prospect of with­drawal have been warn­ing Trump against it. Most large firms, in­clud­ing the big oil and gas com­pa­nies Trump says would get a boost from with­drawal, have en­cour­aged the pres­i­dent to stay in the pact.

Sil­i­con Val­ley bil­lion­aire Elon Musk, who has faced heated crit­i­cism from pro­gres­sives for serv­ing on White House ad­vi­sory coun­cils, wrote on Twit­ter that he will have “no choice” but to re­sign that role if Trump quits Paris.

The last time the U.S. pulled out of such a pact was at the start of the pres­i­dency of Ge­orge W. Bush, who with­drew from the Kyoto Pro­to­col. The move was met with in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion. But ex­it­ing from the Paris agree­ment would be far more sig­nif­i­cant, as the pact has broader in­ter­na­tional buy-in.

Democrats and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists warned that an exit from the Paris ac­cord would be reck­less and ul­ti­mately hurt the U.S. Some noted that no other coun­try has said it would join the U.S. in with­draw­ing or re­duc­ing its com­mit­ment. Only two na­tions, Nicaragua and Syria, have de­clined to join the Paris agree­ment.

“Break­ing our com­mit­ment to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment will leave our coun­try iso­lated and ill­pre­pared for the chal­lenges we face,” Demo­cratic Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia said in a state­ment.

The process of fully leav­ing the agree­ment is com­pli­cated and could take sev­eral years. It would not be un­til Oc­to­ber 2020, near the end of Trump’s cur­rent term, that the United States could fully with­draw un­der the terms of the deal.

An al­ter­na­tive, more dras­tic, route would be to pull out of the United Na­tions Frame­work on Cli­mate Change, which the Paris agree­ment is built on top of. The U.S. joined the frame­work in 1992. With­draw­ing from it could be dif­fi­cult, how­ever, be­cause, un­like the Paris agree­ment, the frame­work was con­sid­ered a treaty and was rat­i­fied by the Se­nate.

As Trump mulls what to do, Cal­i­for­nia and sev­eral other states with ro­bust clean en­ergy poli­cies are putting out word they will only in­ten­sify their cli­mate ef­forts, which com­bined would have more im­pact on cli­mate change than the steps taken by most of the na­tions that have signed the Paris ac­cord.

That is a point not lost on Euro­pean na­tions.

“If they de­cide to pull out, it would be dis­ap­point­ing, but I re­ally don’t think this would change the course of mankind,” said Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Vice Pres­i­dent Maros Se­f­covic. He noted that city, state and busi­ness lead­ers across the U.S. rec­og­nize the eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion of re­new­able en­ergy and tran­si­tion­ing economies to cleaner tech­nolo­gies.

Gov. Brown, who is lead­ing a large coali­tion of coun­tries, states and cities that have pledged to con­front cli­mate change even more ag­gres­sively than is called for by the Paris ac­cord, has re­peat­edly em­pha­sized that eco­nomic case for com­bat­ing cli­mate change. He will ce­ment his role as the de facto leader of U.S. cli­mate ef­forts while in China next week to at­tend the coali­tion’s sum­mit.

And even as the White House mapped out its pos­si­ble exit strat­egy Wed­nes­day, the Cal­i­for­nia state Se­nate was pass­ing a bill that would move the state to 100% re­new­able en­ergy by 2045.

"Trump is go­ing against sci­ence. He's go­ing against re­al­ity," the gov­er­nor said. "We can’t stand by and give aid and com­fort to that."

Irfan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

WIND TUR­BINES off High­way 14 near Mo­jave. Gov. Jerry Brown has taken a lead­ing role in ef­forts to fight cli­mate change.

Mary Altaffer Associated Press

THEN-SEC­RE­TARY of State John F. Kerry, with his grand­daugh­ter, signs the Paris ac­cord on be­half of the U.S. last year.

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