President Donald Trump is likely to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate pact, according to a former adviser.
Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, told reporters in London that the president had made a number of “clear black and white” promises on climate and energy during his campaign. “President Trump made it clear he would withdraw from the deal.” Ebell no longer works for the administration.
Ebell’s statements appear to contradict previous comments the president and other administration officials have made since the election. Trump said in November he would keep an “open mind” about the deal. His secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson said during a confirmation hearing that it’s important for the U.S. to keep a seat at the table for global climate talks.
The people who elected Trump “would prefer not to have a seat at the table,” Ebell said at the event hosted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Foreign Press Association in London.
“If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the president, who’s going to win that debate?” Ebell said. “The president was elected and Rex Tillerson wasn’t.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ebell said during the press conference that he did not have any face-to-face meetings with Trump during the transition, so it’s not clear how much insight he has into the president’s views.
Nathaniel Keohane, who leads the Environmental Defense Fund’s global climate program, said he’s skeptical of Ebell’s prediction. Trump may ultimately pull out of Paris, but Ebell is no longer helping make that decision.
“He is not in the administration,” Keohane said in an interview. “He is trying to argue his case from the outside.”
Trump campaigned on promises to increase U.S. coal and natural gas production, and pledged to defund United Nations climate programs and repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Leaders in China, Europe and elsewhere have cautioned that withdrawing from the Paris pact could imperil international cooperation on security, trade and other fronts.
Environmental groups have warned that pulling back from the global accord would have significant consequences. As the richest nation and the second-largest polluter, U.S. efforts are central to keeping climate change from hitting an irreversible tipping point, unleashing catastrophic floods, droughts and storms, according to researchers.
The accord, brokered in December 2015 by more than 190 countries, is broader than any previous climate agreement. It calls for reducing pollution in hopes of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures at the outset of the industrial revolution.
Ebell said environmental regulations are a bigger issue because they restrict commerce and industry.
“The environmental movement is greatest threat to freedom in the modern world,” he said.
(Updates with comment from environmental group in seventh paragraph.)
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