Trump's Paris Climate Accord Indecision

As G7 leaders all reaffirmed their commitment to the groundbreaking agreement, the U.S. president said he’ll think on it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)

President Trump refused to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, despite strong pressure from Canada, Germany, France, Japan, and the rest of the G7 nations. Instead, Trump said in a tweet he would wait until next week to decide if the U.S. will back the 195-nation agreement.

The news frustrated many United Nations leaders, who’d intensely lobbied Trump to reaffirm support for the climate agreement. German chancellor Angela Merkel said the discussions “had been very difficult, and not to say very unsatisfactory.” She added that “here we have a situation of six against one, meaning there is still no sign of whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris accord or not.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “essential for international equilibrium and the reputation of America that it remains engaged with the Paris treaty. The G7 had shown issues such as climate change are not side issues that can be left to others.”

Ultimately, all remaining six of the G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to reducing harmful emissions, and an unusual exception had to be added for the U.S. The paragraph said America was still considering the climate accords, because the nation was “in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change.” But even before G7 leaders could release their joint statement, Trump posted a message to Twitter saying:

During his election campaign, Trump threatened several times to pull out of the Paris climate accords, a groundbreaking agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.Trump has repeatedly called steps to cut climate-warming emissions bad for business. He’s even called climate change a Chinese hoax “to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” At the meeting Saturday, world leaders stressed to Trump the importance and symbolism of the U.S. backing the plan. “That was a big topic,” Trump’s chief economist, Gary Cohn, told reporters, “where many of the European leaders talked about these global agreements ... without the United States it's sort of missing a big gap when you take the biggest economy out."

Cohn said the pressure swayed Trump to think on it.

Whether this means Trump is actually reevaluating his position on the climate agreement, or if he wanted to remove himself from a high-pressure situation, is unclear. If the U.S. did leave, it would not end the agreement, but as the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses it would greatly jeopardize the pact. Some fear it would create a stampede to leave the accords. A likely option for the U.S., and one the wording of Saturday’s statement insinuates, is that Trump will renegotiate American commitments as outlined in the agreement. The accords were drafted in 2015, and the Obama administration had pledged the U.S. would cut greenhouse gas emissions as much as 28 percent by 2025.

The G7 summit marks the end of Trump’s nine-day trip overseas, his first as president, and he managed to avoid controversy for much of it. He began the trip in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a meeting between the world’s Muslim leaders. There he encouraged countries in the Middle East to take a more active role in fighting extremists. Trump then traveled to Israel,  met with leaders and visited holy sites and was warmly received. He also visited the Pope, who gave the president a copy of his Laudato Si, a183-page encyclical letter on climate change, which includes the passage: "Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day."

On the final leg of Trump’s journey, however, he seemed much less equable. He lectured NATO members on raising their contributions; at a meeting with European Union officials in Brussels, Trump said, “The Germans are bad, very bad,” when it comes to trade, then added, “See the millions of cars they are selling in the U.S.? Terrible. We will stop this.” The U.S. President was also captured shoving Dusko Markovic, the leader of Montenegro, as he jostled for prime position during a photo op.

Trump now returns to Washington D.C., where in his absence the controversy of his campaign’s alleged connection to Russian election meddling has not subsided. Most recently, news organizations are reporting that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has come under FBI scrutiny.