Trump Administration Hasn’t Moved on Paris Climate Deal, Tillerson Says

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  • Tillerson says, as always, U.S. seeks ‘fair and balanced’ deal
  • White House says leaving unless it gets ‘pro-America’ terms

What the U.S. Departure Means for the Paris Agreement

The U.S. administration hasn’t changed its position on the Paris climate accord, which continues to be that it may stay in the global pact if it can reach a compromise that’s “fair and balanced,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

The top diplomat’s comments came a day after the European Union said President Donald Trump’s administration is shifting its approach to the landmark global agreement on climate change, an assertion quickly denied by the White House.

“Under the right conditions, the president said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” Tillerson said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The U.S. position is being “led and developed” by Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, Tillerson said. Cohn’s deputy, Everett Eissenstat, led a U.S. delegation to Montreal this weekend where the U.S., China, Canada and almost 30 other countries discussed the sweeping climate accord.

Speaking from Montreal on Saturday, EU’s climate chief Miguel Arias Canete said in an interview that the U.S. had signaled it wants to re-engage with the Paris Agreement from within, rather than withdrawing from the pact outright and then attempting to renegotiate it.

U.S. President Donald Trump announcing withdrawal from the Paris climate pact in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2017.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The White House rejected that characterization. “Our position on the Paris agreement has not changed. @POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.

‘Ears Are Open’

And H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, said that it was false to say Trump was reconsidering his decision to withdraw. “The president’s ears are open if, at some point, they decide they can come forward with an agreement that addresses the president’s very legitimate concerns with Paris,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Tillerson said the administration’s position has been consistent since Trump announced, in a White House Rose Garden ceremony in June, that the U.S. planned to start a multi-year process of exiting the climate pact.

“If you recall, the president also said, look, we’re willing to work with partners of the Paris climate accord, if we can construct a set of terms that we believe is fair and balanced for the American people,” Tillerson said.

Trump’s administration last month began the formal process of exiting from the climate accord. The EU’s Canete made the comments about a change of stance after meeting with Eissenstat, deputy director of the NEC and deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs.

“Now we don’t see the messages that they are withdrawing from the Paris agreement radically,” Canete said, adding that the countries at Saturday’s meeting agreed not to seek a re-negotiation of the Paris deal.

For a QuickTake on the global climate deal, click here.

Finalized in December 2015 after years of negotiations, the climate pact united most of the nations on the planet -- more than 190 nations -- in a pledge to work toward limiting fossil-fuel emissions. Envoys will meet again in November to discuss how to implement the agreement. The message from the U.S. at Saturday’s gathering “at least pointed in the direction that they will participate constructively” in the talks, Canete said.

“They are willing to re-engage under the Paris agreement but they want to check some of the terms under which they agreed to participate previously,’’ he said. “We assume that means that the U.S. will revisit at some time the targets put forward by the previous administration.”

Trump in June said the agreement favored other countries at the expense of U.S. workers and amounted to a “massive redistribution” of U.S. wealth.

On Sunday, Tillerson said the targets as currently written “were just really out of balance for the two largest economies,” the U.S. and China.

Canete is due to meet with Cohn on Monday in New York, along with climate and energy ministers from some of the world’s largest economies. “We expect the American administration will elaborate further on the message that they gave today in Montreal at a political level,’’ he said.

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs

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