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Trump on the Paris climate deal
00:16 - Source: CNN

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Administration officials will meet to discuss US participation on the Paris climate agreement

The White House has already taken steps to roll back restrictions on carbon emissions

CNN  — 

President Donald Trump’s key advisers remain divided on the issue of climate change as they prepare to discuss whether the United States should remain a party to the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Senior officials will meet this week to discuss the options, with the goal of providing a recommendation to the President about the path forward,” a senior White House official told CNN.

A State Department official offered: “As with many issues, the administration is reviewing the United States’ international climate change policies. At this point, we do not have any decisions to announce.”

Two distinct camps have formed within the administration along fault lines separating the anti-establishment wing from the more moderate wing of the White House.

On one side are chief strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who want the United States to back away from the agreement. Pruitt told “Fox & Friends” last week: “Paris is something that we really need to look at closely, because it’s something we need to exit in my opinion.”

They’ve found themselves at odds with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has argued the deal gives the United States an important seat at the table in international negotiations, and that withdrawing now could erode faith in US leadership, particularly with China and key allies in Europe.

During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson said climate change “will require a global response.”

“Countries that attempt to influence this by acting alone are probably only harming themselves,” he added. “I think it’s important that the US maintain a seat at that table so that we can also judge the level of commitment of the other 189 or so countries that are around that table, and again, adjust our own course, accordingly.”

The agreement has 194 countries that are signatories and 143 countries that have ratified the agreement.

The President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner – both top White House advisers, are also reportedly in favor of the climate accord.

Prior to becoming president, Trump was openly skeptical of climate change, repeatedly calling the phenomenon a Chinese hoax on Twitter and in TV interviews.

He later stepped back from that accusation, calling it a “joke.”

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But in a November interview with The New York Times, Trump said he was still developing a position on the Paris agreement.

“I have an open mind to it,” he said. “We’re going to look very carefully.”

Trump added that he believes there’s “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change, but emphasized the importance of supporting US manufacturing.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently told reporters Trump would make a decision on the agreement ahead of the Group of 7 leaders’ meeting in late May.

Trump has already taken steps to roll back Obama-era restrictions on CO2 emissions, including signing an executive order to rescind a moratorium on coal mining on federal lands and direct agencies to remove obstacles to American energy production.

Since the emissions reduction targets in the Paris agreement are not legally binding, withdrawing from the accord would, in many ways, be a symbolic move – one that’s sure to be greeted enthusiastically by the President’s core supporters.

The 194-nation accord can exist without US participation, but the loss of a major economic power would be a blow to the credibility of the landmark deal.