Haley: 'President Trump believes the climate is changing'

Story highlights

  • As president, Trump has shied away from giving his opinion on whether climate change is real
  • Haley said the US remains committed to curbing climate change
Watch Jake Tapper's full interview with Nikki Haley on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump does believe in climate change and that humans have a role in it, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview on "State of the Union."

"President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation," Haley said Saturday, answering a central question in the wake of his decision to withdraw the country from the Paris climate accord.
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Trump "knows that it's changing and that the US has to be responsible for it and that's what we're going to do," she continued, adding that withdrawing from the Paris agreement won't change the country's commitment to curbing climate change.
    "Just because the US got out of a club doesn't mean we aren't going to care about the environment," she said.
    When asked why the US pulled out of the climate agreement, Haley blamed former President Barack Obama for agreeing to regulations that were "too onerous," too strict and ultimately unachievable.
    "The regulations from the Paris agreement were disadvantaging our companies," she said. "I knew that as a governor. The jobs were not attainable as long as we lived under those regulations. It was not possible to meet the goals had we attempted to."
    Referencing a previous tweet by Trump that had said climate change was "created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive," Tapper asked Haley whether she was willing to acknowledge that "calling climate change a Chinese hoax is just a big box of crazy?"
    Haley declined to answer and instead insisted that Trump acknowledged climate changing was happening. She also said Trump knows the US has to be "responsible" with climate change.
    The full interview will air Sunday.
    Haley's comments are the closest acknowledgment by an administration official since Trump took office that the President -- who has called climate change a "hoax" on multiple occasions -- believes global warming is occurring and humanity has a role in it. When asked in November by The New York Times if he believed human activity was connected to climate change, Trump acknowledged that there is "some connectivity."
    But he backed away from saying to what extent he believed humans were responsible, adding that it "also depends on how much it's going to cost our companies."
    Trump has since shied away from giving his opinion on whether climate change is real. And in multiple instances, he and his administration have avoided using the term "climate change" altogether.
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    He even avoided using the words "climate change" in the 2,000-word speech he gave announcing the US would pull out from the Paris climate accord -- a 2015 pact that focuses on curbing carbon emissions, which widely held to be responsible for climate change.
    Asked Wednesday if Trump thinks human activity is contributing to climate change, White House press secretary Sean Spicer demurred, responding, "Honestly, I haven't asked him that. I can get back to you."
    Two White House officials avoided similar questions at a background briefing with reporters after Trump's speech Thursday. And Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt dodged the question in an interview with Tapper earlier this week and refused to answer when reporters pressed him about it at a White House briefing on Friday.
    Haley told CNN that Trump will always have America's best interests at heart, including what he does in regard to protecting the environment.
    "The rest of the world wanted to tell us how to do it," she said. "But we'll do it under our own terms."

    Trump still intends to make Israel embassy move, Haley says

    Haley also was asked about Trump's decision to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv instead of moving it to Jerusalem -- for now -- a reversal of a campaign promise. The former governor of South Carolina said Trump's decision was calculated and that he plans to use the embassy as a bargaining chip in talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
    "I think that he knows that it could be very much a part of the peace process. And so I think that what he did want to do is make sure that he wasn't interrupting the negotiations that are happening with the peace process," she said. "I think that they feel like it's moving forward in a constructive way, and he didn't want this to get in the way."
    She added that Trump hasn't changed his position on moving the embassy and that it's all about timing.
    Asked about reports that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner tried to establish backchannel communications to Russia through the Russian Embassy, Haley said she was not aware of the news but added that she, herself, wouldn't do that.
    "First of all, I mean, I don't know that to be fact. So I can't sit there and agree with an assumption that you're saying. What I can tell you is no, I wouldn't do that," Haley told Tapper. "But at the same time, I'm not in that inner circle in the administration. I do my job at the United Nations, and Jared continues to do his job there at the White House. And until we see facts, it's hard to respond to something like that."