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Trump announces U.S. withdrawal from Paris climate deal

The news follows weeks of intrigue about the pact that nearly 200 nations agreed to in December 2015.

Updated

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he will exit the Paris climate agreement, delivering the news in a Rose Garden speech loaded with the “America First” rhetoric of his presidential campaign.

Trump said he’d be willing to re-enter an international climate deal if he could secure better terms for the United States — although France, Germany, Italy and the United Nations immediately poured water on the idea of renegotiating the 196-nation Paris accord, and one European official called it a “Trumpian ruse.”

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Repeatedly, Trump made it clear that he had no interest in remaining part of a deal that he considered harmful to the U.S., regardless of what the rest of the world might think.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said to applause from the crowd, which included conservative activists who had pushed for him to exit the agreement.

Trump’s speech echoed the perspective of nationalists in the White House like chief strategist Steve Bannon, a major critic of the Paris deal. The president, who once dismissed the idea of man-made climate change as a Chinese-inspired “hoax,” even seemed to suggest that the United States is a victim of a global campaign to harm America’s economy.

“The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement,” Trump said Thursday. “They went wild, they were so happy, for the simple reason that it put our country — the United States of America, which we all love — at a very, very big economic disadvantage.

“A cynic would say the obvious reason for economic competitors and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is so that we continue to suffer the self-inflicted, major economic wound,” he added.

The speech was peppered with other lines that delighted the crowd in the Rose Garden.

But despite the affection Trump expressed for the Steel City, Pittsburgh’s mayor slammed Trump on Twitter, writing that “Pittsburgh stands with the world & will follow Paris Agreement.” Mayor Bill Peduto signed onto a letter last year calling on Trump to remain in Paris.

Absent from the ceremony were three of the administration’s biggest advocates for remaining in the deal: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

In a briefing after the speech, senior administration officials still would not say if Trump believes that human activity contributes to climate change. The president’s remarks speak for themselves, one official said, and called the question on his beliefs off-topic.

Trump is “sincere” about reopening negotiations for a new or altered climate deal and is “very intent” in engaging in such negotiations, the aides said.

But foreign governments were quick to reject the idea that the Paris agreement, in which numerous countries made concessions to satisfy demands by the United States, is up for renegotiating.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the governments of France, Germany and Italy said in a joint statement.

In a similar statement, the U.N. said that while it “stands ready to engage in dialogue with the United States government,” the Paris deal “cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party.”

“This is a Trumpian ruse,” one European official told POLITICO. “Paris, in effect, took 20 years to negotiate and reflects a profound accommodation of U.S. demands for flexibility.”

Asked about the dim reaction from Europe, one administration official paused. “There are other issues that may not necessarily be part of the Paris agreement but may be related to international climate policy in general,” the official said.

Thursday’s news follows weeks of intrigue about the pact that nearly 200 nations agreed to in December 2015, aimed at uniting the world to head off the worst of the storms, floods and droughts that scientists say a warming world would bring.

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The U.S. withdrawal is a victory for Trump advisers, including Bannon and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who wanted the president to fulfill his campaign pledge to break with former President Barack Obama’s policies. Other aides, including Ivanka Trump, had advocated taking a middle course — remaining in the deal while weakening Obama’s pledges for the U.S. to cut its greenhouse gas pollution.

By withdrawing, the U.S. would join Nicaragua and Syria, the only two countries that declined to participate in the agreement.

White House officials briefed conservative groups and congressional staff earlier Thursday about the details of the withdrawal, distributing talking points that bashed the Paris deal. Officials said they will withdraw from the agreement using the underlying terms of the deal, which means it will likely take four years to formally pull out. That would delay the likely date of a formal withdrawal until November 2020, right after the presidential election.

“Paris will be on the ballot” in 2020, Brian Deese, Obama’s former climate adviser, wrote on Twitter.

During his remarks, Trump said the U.S. would stop implementing Obama’s domestic climate pledge and stop sending money to the Green Climate Fund, an international program aimed at helping poor countries cope with climate change. Trump argued that the Paris deal “punishes the United States,” calling it a “massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”

Trump said he would stop the payments of “tens of billions of dollars” to the fund — a far larger sum than the U.S. ever pledged to pay.

In response, Obama portrayed Trump’s move as a bad deal for the U.S.

“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said in a statement. “But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

The decision has far-reaching political and diplomatic implications for the Trump administration, and forced the president to choose between his “America First” campaign agenda and U.S. relations with countries that regard climate change as one of the world’s foremost problems.

The drama escalated in recent weeks as Pope Francis and numerous world leaders urged Trump to stay in the deal, and as the agreement drew widespread support from U.S. businesses — from tech executives such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla’s Elon Musk to oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil.

Supporters of the “remain” camp, including Ivanka Trump, Kushner and Tillerson, had warned that exiting the deal would needlessly alienate U.S. allies, and that a less-radical alternative of rewriting Obama’s non-binding pledges would allow America to maintain leverage in international climate discussions.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, another aide who argued in favor of remaining in the deal, was seated in the front row for Thursday’s Rose Garden announcement. Several Cabinet secretaries also attended, including Pruitt, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

One Trump adviser said dozens of people had tried to persuade the president to adopt a middle ground on the issue, such as establishing a commission to study climate change or launching a 90-day review period. But Trump kept coming back to the economy, saying the accord would kill American jobs and “these international agreements are not good for America,” this person said.

“You couldn’t talk him out of it,” this person said. “He thought it was a bad deal, and he said over and over, this is a bad deal. This hurts the economy. This is a bad deal.”

A slew of conservative activists attended the president’s speech, including Myron Ebell, a former member of Trump’s presidential transition team and staffer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who rejects mainstream climate science, Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

Meanwhile, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a frequent Trump critic, has endorsed the deal. “Affirmation of the #ParisAgreement is not only about the climate,” he tweeted Wednesday. “It is also about America remaining the global leader.”

But other Republicans, including Bannon, Pruitt and coal-state lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, advocated an explicit break from what they view as Obama’s “war on coal.”

Former President Barack Obama is pictured.

However it’s implemented, a U.S. withdrawal will be a severe blow to global cohesion on climate change at a time when scientists say the world has few years left to head off the worst of the rising seas, worsening droughts and spreading disease that a warming planet would bring. U.S. intelligence and military leaders have described climate change as a security problem too, warning it could cause mass migrations and inflame global conflicts.

“Eighty-three countries run into danger of disappearing from the surface of the Earth if we don’t resolutely start the fight against climate change,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday as word of Trump’s expected decision began to leak.

Supporters of the deal also see economic opportunities in the shift toward energy efficiency and green energy, and accuse Trump and his team are squandering them. “What’s really stupid about it is they’re throwing out the economic opportunities that being part of the Paris agreement provide for the United States,” Hillary Clinton said Wednesday in an appearance at a tech industry conference. “That is what I find totally incomprehensible.”

In the run-up to the Paris conference, Obama had pledged that the U.S. would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, largely by carrying out his policies of tightening regulations on power plants and vehicles while encouraging a shift toward greater reliance on wind and solar power. But the Obama administration had insisted that those targets be non-binding, in part to avoid the Senate ratification requirement that doomed U.S. support for the 1997 Kyoto climate agreement.

Regardless of the fate of the Paris agreement, Trump has already moved to shelve the entirety of Obama’s domestic climate agenda, ensuring that the U.S. will not meet Obama’s targets.

Josh Dawsey and Eric Wolff contributed to this report.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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