Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Paris Agreement:  Fears Grow that 'Cancel' Is Back on the Table

Climate advocates fear that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, an opponent of the Paris Agreement, has convinced President Trump to pull out of the global climate deal. (Photo Credit: Evan Vucci / AP Images) Click to Enlarge.
Winds have shifted in the White House against staying in the Paris Agreement, marking an abrupt course change since last week, when climate advocates felt confident that President Trump would preserve U.S. membership with weaker targets.

The shift came Monday when the White House counsel's office, possibly influenced by chief Trump strategist Steve Bannon, reversed course and decreed that an obscure provision of the 2015 deal meant the Trump administration would be bound to meet the Obama administration's emissions goals if it stayed in the deal.

The State Department's legal team had advised the opposite way, and a wide range of legal experts agreed.  But the ruling by White House counsel Don McGahn upended pro-Paris Trump advisers' strategy of staying with the deal while putting forward a business-as-usual target, sources familiar with the discussions said.

"I'm concerned. I think what we're clearly seeing is a political maneuver, using a spurious legal argument as a pretext for shutting off a Cabinet debate that was probably leaning towards staying in the agreement," said Paul Bodnar, former climate chief of the White House's National Security Council.

Another argument for withdrawing from the global pact — that staying in could invite lawsuits against the administration for failing to strongly decarbonize — is also gaining momentum.

Proponents of that argument are warning the president that potential legal challenges could threaten his broader regulatory agenda, like terminating the Clean Power Plan.

"The withdraw camp is fighting harder than the stay camp," added one Paris Agreement supporter following the talks.  "The head count may be in our favor, but when it actually gets to the room, the question is, who is actually speaking up, and whose opinion carries weight?  Where the administration lands on this will be determined by how those are answered."

The head count mobilized last night as rumors flew.  Ceres, a business-oriented sustainability group, reissued a statement declaring that more than 1,000 U.S. corporations and investors support the Paris deal.  A spokesman acknowledged that it was in response to fresh rumors of a pullout.  The Sierra Club issued a statement declaring that withdrawal would be "a disaster" for diplomacy, and the French ambassador to the United States tweeted a reminder that "The Paris agreement is not legally binding and based on unilateral revisable national commitments."

Read more at Paris Agreement: Fears Grow that 'Cancel' Is Back on the Table

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