White House denies US wants to remain in Paris climate accord (but would stay for more favourable terms)
The US signalled that it’s no longer seeking to withdraw from Paris Agreement, said EU’s climate chief Miguel Arias Canete
The White House has denied reports that it planned to stay in the Paris climate agreement, saying its position on leaving was unchanged, and that it would only stay in if it got more “favourable” terms.
The Trump administration was forced to make a statement on Saturday after reports emerged as ministers from more than 30 countries held talks in Montreal this weekend preparing for the upcoming United Nations climate summit in November.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump administration officials had said at the Montreal talks that they wouldn’t pull out of the Paris accord and were offering to re-engage with the deal, citing the EU’s climate commissioner.
The WSJ quoted Canete 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.”
According to the AFP news agency, Canete also said there would be a meeting on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York City this week with US representatives “to assess what is the real US position”, and noted: “It’s a message which is quite different to the one we heard from President Trump in the past.”
Trump provoked outcry among most world leaders and the science community when he gave notice earlier this year that Paris was a bad deal for the US and he would pull the country out of the deal to cut emissions.
On Saturday, responding to the reports, 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 favourable to our country”.
Ministers from 34 economies were meeting in Montreal in part to head off potential efforts by the US to weaken the accord at the November UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany.
Watch: Trump’s June announcement of US withdrawal from climate pact
Called by Canada, China and the European Union, the summit took place 30 years to the day after the signing of the Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer – which Canada’s environment minister hailed as a multilateral “success story” by governments, NGOs and ordinary citizens jointly tackling a major global threat.
China’s special representative to the talks, Xie Zhenhua, said Beijing considers the Montreal Protocol to be a “very effective and efficient” example of multilateral action on the environment – largely because it rested on a broad consensus.
“We should take actions now,” Xie said, “to ensure that we can realise the goals that we have set.”
“The key issue is how we should combine climate actions with economic growth, the protection of people and job creation,” he added.
Though Trump said in June that the country would pull out of the Paris accord, there has been little effort by the US to formally extricate itself from the agreement.
Half the G20 is represented at the weekend meeting in Montreal, though there are no senior US climate officials there.
The US delegation is headed by Everett Eissenstat, deputy director of the US National Economic Council.
After the summit, Canete is set to travel to New York and meet Trump adviser Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, on Monday.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse