Into the great wide open: The recent burst of attention toward the White House posture on the Paris climate deal has underscored two basic things...
- President Donald Trump is absolutely still planning to bail, something the White House reiterated multiple times yesterday.
- The administration also insists that the door remains open to staying in the pact if the U.S. can secure better terms.
So... Here's the thing about the second point, which the U.S. has been stating since June: Nobody knows what this means, and the Trump administration won't say, instead defaulting to the most general of generalities.
Why this matters: The information void makes it impossible, for now, for the international community to assess whether there's really a pathway here, and indeed whether it's one worth walking down.
Case in point: Paris surfaced in yesterday's meeting between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. State Department advisor Brian Hook, briefing reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting in New York yesterday, said that Trump reiterated that the agreement is unfair to the U.S., and bad for its workers and economy. But he declined to offer any specifics about what it might take for the U.S. to remain in the deal.
Between the lines: It's one thing to avoid details in a press conference. But they're not emerging behind the scenes either. Nobody your Generate host has spoken with has picked up on any signs of a tangible position behind the White House claim that the U.S. is open to staying on more favorable terms (especially given that the agreement is largely nonbonding and countries set their own emissions targets anyway).
- A spokesperson for Miguel Arias Canete, the European Union's climate action commissioner, confirms to Axios this morning that "No detail or information has been given [from the Trump administration]."
One expert notes:
- "Until such time as the Trump administration is more clear about what it means, there won't be a lot of efforts by the international community to read his mind about what it will take to make the president like the Paris agreement," says Nigel Purvis, who worked on climate at the State Department under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and later advised Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.
However, there's little to suggest that the administration is putting more meat on the bones of its policy.
- "There's no real evidence that they are actively pursuing that theoretical opening that the president provided," Purvis, the CEO of the consulting firm Climate Advisers, tells Axios. "There has been no cabinet-level or high-level process to define 'the ask' of the international community."