WASHINGTON: All eyes were on the White House Thursday as US President Donald Trump was set to announce whether or not he will abandon a landmark global climate pact, as reports swirled about his intentions.
After a day of rumors about the Republican leader’s plans, with some aides reportedly saying a withdrawal was likely and others saying no decision was made, Trump said he was ready to make his stance known.
“I will be announcing my decision on Paris Accord, Thursday at 3:00 P.M. The White House Rose Garden. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the US leader said in a tweet late Wednesday, punctuating the post with his campaign slogan.
Earlier in the day, Trump said only that he’d been “hearing from a lot of people, both ways. Both ways.”
America’s international allies and Trump’s domestic opponents lashed out Wednesday at media reports that he had made up his mind to pull Washington out of the global accord to curb carbon emissions—a move that would make the deal less effective.
The White House did not confirm those reports, and it was unclear whether Trump would fully scrap US participation, merely water down US emissions objectives — or surprise everyone with a decision to follow the status quo.
A US withdrawal would come fewer than 18 months after the historic 196-nation pact was signed in the French capital, the fruit of a hard-fought agreement between Beijing and Washington under Barack Obama’s leadership.
The European Union and China indicated they would press ahead with the deal, regardless of US participation.
The United States is the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, after China.
“China and the EU… will implement the agreement,” a senior EU official told reporters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The Paris Agreement will continue with full force of implementation even if the US pulls out.”
The US administration under Trump—who once called climate change a “hoax”—has resisted intense pressure from US partners to commit to respecting the global accord.
The White House had previously indicated that Trump could simply recalibrate emissions targets.
Under Obama, Washington had pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Nancy Pelosi, one of the top Democrats in Congress, described the apparent decision as a “stunning abdication of American leadership and a grave threat to our planet’s future.”
Since taking office on January 20, Trump has sent contradictory signals on the Paris deal—reflecting the different currents within his administration, both on climate change but also on the wider issue of America’s role in the world and its position on multilateralism.
When asked on Tuesday whether Trump believes human activity is contributing to climate change, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him that. I can get back to you.”
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who met with Trump on Tuesday, wants Washington to quit the Paris deal, which he believes is “bad” for the country.
But other top Trump advisers, including daughter Ivanka and Gary Cohn, the head of the president’s National Economic Council, are said to favor staying in the treaty.
And the corporate world has mostly come out in favor of the United States keeping its seat at the table.
A dozen large groups including oil major BP, agrochemical giant DuPont, Google, Intel and Microsoft, have urged Trump to remain part of the deal.
Six against one
Trump’s position on the Paris accord was a focal point of last week’s G7 summit in Sicily, at which leaders of the world’s six other leading economies pressed him to renew the US commitment to the deal.
A frustrated German Chancellor Angela Merkel later warned that Europe “must take its fate into its own hands,” citing the differences with Washington on climate change as evidence of their divergent paths.
She described the discussion as “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responded in a television interview Sunday, assuring that Trump was “wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord.”
Cohn, the Trump economic adviser, also said last week that the president’s views were “evolving.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has weighed in, arguing on Tuesday that the United States should not leave the Paris Agreement.
“But even if the government decides to leave the Paris agreement, it’s very important for US society as a whole—the cities, the states, the companies, the businesses—to remain engaged,” he said.