Donald Trump says US could 'go back' into Paris climate agreement

The President says he feels 'very strongly about the environment' 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 10 January 2018 21:42 GMT
Donald Trump on Paris Agreement: 'We could conceivably go back in... I feel very strongly about the environment'

President Donald Trump has said that the US could "go back" into the Paris climate deal - having withdrawn America from the global accord last year.

"We could conceivably go back in ... I feel very strongly about the environment," said the President during a joint news conference with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Mr Trump began the withdrawal process in June last year but it will not officially conclude per the terms of United Nations-brokered agreement until just before the 2020 US election.

The agreement was signed under former President Barack Obama's administration in December 2015 by nearly 200 countries to curb global carbon emissions and contain global warming to 2 C.

Mr Trump has called climate change a "hoax" in the past - one perpetrated by the Chinese.

The President said in his 1 June 2016 withdrawal announcement that the agreement put American workers - particularly in the coal industry - at an "economic disadvantage."

The Paris accord "as drawn and as we signed was very unfair to the US," he said today.

Mr Trump said the agreement "put penalties on us...and took away a lot of our asset values."

He noted that this is "rich in gas, and coal, and oil, and other things...there was a tremendous penalty to using it. According to some estimates we would have had to close businesses in order to qualify by 2025," but it was unclear to which "estimates" the President had been referring.

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"Frankly, it's an agreement I had no problem with, but I had a problem with the agreement that was signed because as usual, [the Obama administration] made a bad deal," he said.

The crux of the President's message was that the deal "really would have taken away our competitive edge."

He added that though he feels "very strongly about the environment" and the Environmental Protection Agency along with its administrator Scott Pruitt "want clean water, clean air," American businesses needed to be able to "compete."

The announcement that the US - one of the world's largest polluters - could withdraw its withdrawal from the Paris accord appears to be contradictory to Mr Trump's repeated comments about the "unfair" deal.

As Neil Bhatiya, a researcher at the DC-based think tank Center for a New American Security, told The Independent: the administration has not been able to articulate a criticism of the Paris agreement that reflects what the agreement actually says."

He explained that the US "has a lot of flexibility" in determining exactly how to reduce emissions to meet the agreed-upon targets in the Paris accord.

Also, ahead of the signing the Obama administration's team had been insistent on language which would make the agreement entirely voluntary and not make the Paris Agreement a treaty - which would have required Congressional approval and been legally binding.

In other words, the accord is entirely voluntary.

"It would not be too difficult to submit a new national climate change plan that addresses the competitiveness issues Trump cites," Mr Bhatiya said.

Sue Biniaz, the former US State Department Deputy Legal Adviser on climate, previously told The Independent "there's no legal reason why [the Paris accord] couldn't be amended, but I don't think it needs to be amended or "renegotiated" in order to address the concerns raised by the President."

Mr Trump and Mr Pruitt had indicated that the US was open to renegotiating the deal which took 21 years of global meetings to draft and sign.

However, any possibility of that was quickly dismissed when Germany, France, Italy issued a rare joint statement in the wake of June 2016 announcement and unequivocally said the deal "cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies."

The carbon emissions targets and financial contributions to the various funds set up through the UN, the Green Climate Fund, and bilateral commitments can be changed based on each countries' prerogatives.

Todd Stern, Mr Obama's appointed Special Envoy on Climate Change in the US State Department, told The Independent last June that it was "extremely hard to imagine any country wanting to renegotiate [the agreement] because they felt the US got a bum deal."

The other issue is figuring out "what the President even means by" renegotiation, said Mr Stern.

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