Nov 10, 2017

Understanding Trump, climate edition

Visitors arrive at the U.S. Climate Action Center in Bonn, Germany. Photo: Martin Meissner / AP

Axios' Amy Harder has her first dispatch from Bonn, Germany, where she'll be for the next week covering the United Nations' annual climate conference underway through Nov. 17.

Quoted: "You have to understand where Trump is coming from and what that might mean for U.S. commitments," implored a top American business executive on a panel discussion Thursday, held at a sprawling conference center near a park alongside the Rhine River.

Gritty details: The executive, top U.S. Chamber of Commerce official Stephen Eule, went into detail to help explain to a largely foreign audience what was driving President Trump — and try to help them understand his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Trump campaigned on reviving America's manufacturing sector, Eule said, and he's pursuing policies helping coal and nuclear power plants in the name of resilient electricity. And regardless of whether Trump ultimately does withdraw from the Paris deal, whatever he does on climate will be far less than his predecessor, Eule said.

The other side: Leon de Graaf, advisor to Business Europe, a group representing European businesses, said negotiators shouldn't treat the U.S. any different because Trump has indicated he's going to withdraw. "If you're trying to push them away,” then the chances of them coming back are lower, Graaf said.

Why it matters: This awkward but cordial mood is setting the stage for how the Trump administration will be portrayed in the conference. The rest of the world isn't prepared (yet anyway) to punish America for doing anything, because technically it hasn't. It takes a few years for the formal withdrawal process to play out. The rest of the world is still holding out hope Trump will change his mind.

One level deeper: The Chamber has been officially noncommittal with its position on the Paris climate deal, instead blaming former President Barack Obama for what Eule said was not a collaborative process, and imploring Congress to enact policy to address climate change instead of regulations. "We would like to see a durable climate policy," Eule said. "In order for that to happen, Congress has to get involved."

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