WIUM Tristates Public Radio

President Trump Expected To Make Decision On Paris Climate Accord

May 31, 2017
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we're going to get the latest on the U.S. role in the Paris climate agreement. President Trump tweeted this morning that he will announce his decision over the next few days, so we're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley, who's been reporting on deliberations within the administration, and NPR's Christopher Joyce, who joined me in Paris in 2015 to report on the accord as it was being negotiated. Hi, guys.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: Hello, Ari.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: Scott, let's start with you. What do we know about Trump's decision making, whether the U.S. will stay in or get out of this deal?

HORSLEY: Well, the president is getting a lot of lobbying on both sides both from folks within the administration and from outside. He met yesterday with his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, who is one of the leading climate skeptics in the administration. He wants the president to pull out of the Paris accords. The president's meeting today with Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, the former CEO of Exxon, who's one of the leading advocates for staying in the Paris agreement.

A lot of business leaders have also been contacting the White House, urging the president to stay in. Other leaders of big industrial countries urged the president to stay in the Paris accords last week when they met in Italy. Trump has also heard from 22 Republican senators who want him to pull out.

There are some news outlets who are reporting that the decision is already made and the president has decided to drop out of the Paris accords. We have not been able to confirm that. And Trump himself is maintaining the suspense, tweeting out this morning that he'll announce his decision in the coming days.

SHAPIRO: If the president does decide to pull out, there's a question about whether it would just be the Paris deal or a larger U.N. climate treaty. Explain what the distinction is there.

HORSLEY: Well, one distinction is timing. The earliest he could formally withdraw from the Paris Accords is November of 2019, and then there's a year after that before that withdrawal actually takes effect. In fact that'd be right after the 2020 presidential elections. He could drop out in just one year from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. That, however, is a Senate-approved treaty, and some lawmakers would perhaps want to have a voice in that.

In fact, those 22 Republican senators who've urged the president to drop out of the Paris Agreement has said, stay in the Framework Convention, and that way the U.S. keeps its seat at the international table.

SHAPIRO: Christopher Joyce, remind us why this matters. Why do defenders of the Paris deal say it's so important?

JOYCE: It's the only one that includes everybody in the same tent. Virtually every country in the world has agreed to reduce their emissions under the Paris Agreement. That's never happened before.

SHAPIRO: Almost 200 countries.

JOYCE: Right. What happened was that there was a treaty in 1997. It was signed in Kyoto in Japan. It did not include the developing world. It soon became clear that that's just not going to work because the future emissions over the next few decades are mostly coming from the developing countries. It took 10 years of wrangling to get the developing world to say, look; this is everybody's problem, not just the developed world. Yeah, we made the problem, but everyone needs to be on board.

And finally in 2015, Xi Jinping, president of China, President Obama, got together and said, look; we're going to do this. Are you on board or not? And that did the trick. And everybody signed up, and everybody's agreed to lower their emissions.

SHAPIRO: We've interviewed people on this program who say the U.S. could uphold its commitment even if the Trump administration doesn't support it just from commitments that corporations and states and cities have made to cut carbon emissions. Explain how that would work.

JOYCE: It's not.

(LAUGHTER)

JOYCE: They're not going to make - I mean the ambitious plan that President Obama put forward is 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions based on a 2005 baseline and do it within the next eight years. That's not going to happen. I mean the minute Donald Trump was elected, that wasn't going to happen, Paris or no Paris. However, the fact is that emissions already are down 12 percent below 2005 without even trying. That's because of market forces.

And so that 12 percent, according to some analyses that I've looked at, could become a 17 percent reduction by 2020. The problem is after that. That's when the planned environmental regulations that Obama had proposed would have kicked in, and they probably won't. But beyond that, I mean pulling out of Paris also sends a message to the rest of the world. If we're not playing, why should they play? And that could have really serious complications.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Christopher Joyce and Scott Horsley. Thanks to both of you.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

JOYCE: Glad to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.