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White House won’t use UN climate conference to talk Paris options

The White House team at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany does not plan to discuss conditions under which the U.S. might remain in the Paris climate deal, an official said.

"We are not going to address that issue . . . We don't plan to talk about what those options could be," a White House official told reporters on a conference call, noting, "I don't anticipate having delegations approach us and really try to get into that kind of discussion."

Why it matters: The U.S. posture means continued uncertainty about President Trump's comments that the country might be willing to remain in the 2015 agreement if the U.S. can secure better conditions. As we reported here, the administration has yet to put meat on the bones of the idea.

  • The official described it as a head-of-state level issue that's beyond what the U.S. plans to tackle at this session of the annual U.N talks.

What's next: The White House is hosting a meeting at the conference tomorrow to promote more efficient global use of fossil fuels, as well as nuclear power. The goal is a "pragmatic" discussion of how to address global warming while boosting energy security, economic growth and access to affordable power, a White House official said.

The White House official said it's an important topic that would otherwise be largely missing from the discussion in Germany, and highlighted International Energy Agency forecast of long-term growth in global energy demand and projections that fossil fuels will play a central role for decades.

  • "It is burying your head in the sand if you don't have this conversation," the official said.

Yes, but: The White House faces strong criticism for the refusal of President Trump and some other top administration officials to acknowledge the scientific consensus on human-induced global warming, and for abandoning Obama-era climate policies and rules.

Big picture: Asked whether reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for the Trump administration, the official said it's a "lesser priority" than energy security and economic development, but added that it's "still a priority."

Note: Axios reporter Amy Harder is in Bonn reporting from the U.N. climate conference. She'll have more on the talks and the U.S. posture in her Harder Line column tomorrow morning. Get it directly in your inbox by signing up here for Generate, our daily newsletter on energy.