Trump Adviser Tells Ministers U.S. Will Leave Paris Climate Accord

Source: By LISA FRIEDMAN, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gary D. Cohn, the White House economic adviser, reaffirmed to a number of foreign ministers on Monday the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — Gary D. Cohn, the top White House economic adviser, told ministers from several major allies on Monday that the Trump administration was “unambiguous” about its plans to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change unless new terms were met.

Ministers emerging from the 90-minute breakfast in a back room of The Smith, a brasserie near the United Nations, described the meeting as genial and productive. But, they said, they learned no specifics from Mr. Cohn about the likelihood of the United States’ remaining in the global accord or what changes would be needed to make it acceptable to the White House.

“I made the president’s position unambiguous, to where the president stands and where the administration stands on Paris,” Mr. Cohn told reporters after the meeting. “We reaffirmed the president’s statement that he made in the Rose Garden, and we continue to reinforce what the president is saying.”

President Trump announced in a Rose Garden speech in June that the Paris agreement — under which nearly 200 nations pledged voluntary targets to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions and to support poor countries grappling with rising global temperatures — was bad for America’s economy. He said the United States would withdraw from the agreement, but left open the possibility that he might try to “renegotiate” the accord.

When the State Department filed a formal notice to the United Nations that it intended to withdraw from the Paris agreement, officials made clear that Washington might rejoin if “suitable terms” were found.

Yet several diplomats said that while the United States’ position may have been clear, its plans were not.

Ministers said Mr. Cohn did not clarify what it might take for the United States to remain a party to the accord, other than saying such conditions “are not there yet,” according to two aides who received summaries of the meeting. Both said Mr. Cohn emphasized that the United States wanted to work with other countries on climate change and energy.

“It was quite clear that their position is, right now they are pulling out of the Paris agreement,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister. Ms. McKenna said she had asserted that the accord was “nonnegotiable and irreversible,” but she said there was broad agreement that countries wanted to lower emissions without harming the economy.

“The fact that we’re meeting is quite good,” said Edna Molewa, the South African environment minister. “You know, in climate change discussions we believe in engagement, and engagement is very tough.” She said she did not learn anything new from the meeting with Mr. Cohn but added, “It’s important to understand where we come from.”

Also at the meeting were ministers from Argentina, Brazil, the European Union, Japan and Australia. The White House has not released a full list of attendees.