19 September 2017

Has President Trump changed his mind on the Paris Agreement?

During the past week, more and more media report that the US stance on the landmark climate agreement is softening, leaving wide room for interpretation that maybe the US is ready to re-negotiate its participation to the Agreement.

It all started when the Guardian reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser HR McMaster have hinted that the US is open to negotiation.

Ever since, media news keep coming up, reporting quotes and comments from government official from both sides, creating more intrigue on what the US is actually considering.

On Saturday, the White House issued a statement denying the rumours, stating that US’s position on leaving the Agreement was unchanged.

More specifically, on an email sent to The Guardian, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country”.

The Wall Street Journal reported that during last  weekend’s meeting in Montreal, Trump administration officials had said that US will not pull out of the climate agreement, and that they were willing to re-engage with the deal.

The WSJ quoted Miguel Arias Cañete, the Climate Action & Energy Commissioner of the EU, saying: “The US has 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”.

AFP agency Cañete also revealed that there would be a meeting on the sidelines of the UN general assembly with US representatives to “assess what is the real US position”.

Mr Cañete said: “It’s a message which is quite different to the one we heard from President Trump in the past”.

On June, President Trump announced that the US would pull out from the Paris Agreement, but the rules of the pact do not allow countries willing to leave to physically pull out until three years after they announce their intentions.

The US President had then adapted a strong rhetoric that the US would first leave the pact, and would later renegotiate better terms.

The Guardian notices that this sting rhetoric has now changed, as the statements now imply that the US would re-negotiate indeed, before officially leaving the Agreement.

In an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, said referring to Trump’s top economic adviser Tillerson: “So I think the plan is for Director Cohn to consider other ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord. We want to be productive. We want to be helpful”.

As reported by the Guardian, the National security adviser H.R. McMaster said on ABC’s This Week that “the President is open to any discussions that will help us improve the environment, that will help ensure our energy security and will advance out prosperity and the prosperity of American businesses and American workers”.

In addition, The Washington Post reported that he called the Paris Agreement “a bad deal for the American people and a bad deal for the environment”.

Jochen Flasbarth, the State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment has commented: “The Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated”.

“National pledges can be updated but not weakened. After all, current pledges are not sufficient to limit global warming to 2C, let alone 1.5C”.

Despite indications not being clear on what the US stance will be, one thing is for sure: Climate Week NYC and the pathway to COP23 have surely created a momentum for climate talks again.

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