May 31, 2017

Trump's Paris "fair deal"

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Trump is still expected to make a final decision this week on whether to stay in or withdraw from the Paris climate deal. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said yesterday: "Ultimately, he wants a fair deal for the American people.

Between the lines: Such a statement implies Trump could present his decision as some sort of deal regardless of his decision, even if he follows through on what he has told close confidants, which is that he is going to withdraw the U.S. from the accord. Spicer's comments reiterate my previous statements that no matter what Trump does, it likely won't be a clean decision.

An analysis written Tuesday by the nonpartisan ClearView Energy Partners research firm finds four ways Trump could exit the Paris deal, which overlap with the three ways a senior administration official told me, including calling on the Senate to vote on the accord.

  1. He could leave out the front door of the Paris deal, which would take at least three years.
  2. He could exit the underlying United Nations treaty, which would take just a year but would be the most extreme option.
  3. He could technically stay in but keep rolling back all of former President Obama's policies that comprised the U.S. commitment.
  4. He could threaten to withdraw the U.S. as a way to "to secure shallower U.S. reductions or steeper cuts from others," the note writes.

The warring views inside the White House:

  • Nationalists, as captured by my colleague Jonathan Swan: Paris is the antithesis of America First. It's a global deal, which other major countries have no interest in abiding by in good faith, that has potentially profound consequences for American workers. Withdrawing from the climate deal is just as if not more significant than withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Trump began the process of withdrawing from as one of his first acts as president.
  • Globalists: If America withdraws from the deal, it'd be America alone, not America first. Leaving the deal leaves millions of U.S. dollars on the table funneled to the global climate effort by the Obama administration. The U.S. has more leverage and power by remaining at the negotiating table than by leaving.
  • Not mentioned: The environmental and public health consequences of climate change are not top of mind for either perspective.

The stakes: Some readers have said those in the media (including me) are getting a bit too caught up in who is on what side of this Paris battle. That's a fair point. The stakes in this fight are big, but perhaps a bit too focused on the Paris deal in and of itself. As I noted last week, no matter what happens with this accord, the U.S. is already giving up its leadership position on climate change. The biggest question if Trump does withdraw the U.S. from the deal is how much that move will weaken ambition of others, notably India and other developing countries. Backers of the deal, including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, are speaking with confidence now, but I wouldn't put too much stake in what's said now as compared to six months from now.

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