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May 19, 2017
World waits for Trump’s call on Paris

The White House has indicated that President Donald Trump will announce the United States’ position on the Paris Climate Agreement following a summit of the G7 nations on May 26–27 in Sicily. Under President Barack Obama, the United States committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 when compared to 2005 levels. The formal name for the commitment is intended nationally determined contribution (INDC). Each nation in the agreement has announced an INDC.

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Can INDC be renegotiated?

The size of the U.S. INDC appears to be the main concern of the Trump administration. On the campaign trail, the president said Paris is a bad deal for the United States and pledged to withdraw from it. However, sources on the Trump team appear to favor remaining in the agreement. These include Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson is the former CEO of ExxonMobil, which also supports U.S. participation in Paris. Since taking office, Trump has given signals that complete withdrawal from Paris may not be necessary, but some kind of renegotiation of the U.S. INDC may be needed. The agreement allows nations to commit to more reductions than stated in the INDCs; but it is unclear if Paris allows a nation to undertake fewer reductions than stated and still be a part of the agreement.  

Pro-Paris energy companies

Trump’s undisclosed position on Paris has prompted many parties to let the president know where they stand and urge him to join them. Besides ExxonMobil, pro-Paris energy companies include ConocoPhillips, Peabody Energy, National Grid, PG&E Corporation, Shell, and BP.

According to a blog on the Shell website, “The Paris Agreement has sharpened the emphasis on energy transition, along with other economic signals and drivers that continue to push the global economy forward. While the Agreement would continue without U.S. involvement, the focus would be blunted to some extent, thereby weakening the global economic signal coming from it. With innovation, trade, and scaled deployment at the core of the Agreement, those countries which excel in these areas, of which the U.S. is pre-eminent, may miss new growth opportunities.”

Pro-Paris governors

Politicians have also joined in the call. In early May, 12 Democratic governors wrote to the president, noting that collective action to limit greenhouse gas emissions is critical. “Without collaboration, climate change will cost the world’s nations several trillion dollars in damages,” said the governors.

Democratic support of the agreement is hardly unexpected, but several Republican governors have also joined the appeal. Specifically, in a May 17, 2017, letter, Republican Governors Phil Scott of Vermont and Charles Baker of Massachusetts told the president that the impacts of climate change are already being felt in their states and that the INDC of 26 percent to 28 percent is achievable with “continued national leadership.”

The voice of coal miners

Opposition to sticking with Paris is also strong and, according to press reports, includes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. In a speech at a meeting of the National Mining Association (NMA), Pruitt reportedly urged the NMA to make the White House aware that the agreement will harm coal miners, a group that has received vigorous support from Trump.  

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