UNITED NATIONS -- Gary Cohn, the top White House economic adviser, told ministers from several major allies Monday that President Donald Trump's administration was "unambiguous" about its plans to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change unless new terms were met.
Ministers emerging from the 90-minute breakfast in a back room of The Smith, a brasserie near the United Nations, described the meeting as genial and productive. But, they said, they learned no specifics from Cohn about the likelihood of the United States' remaining in the global accord or what changes would be needed to make it acceptable to the White House.
"I made the president's position unambiguous, to where the president stands and where the administration stands on Paris," Cohn told reporters after the meeting. "We reaffirmed the president's statement that he made in the Rose Garden, and we continue to reinforce what the president is saying."
Speculation that Trump would reverse course and remain in the Paris deal was heightened after the European Union's climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete, said Saturday in an interview that the U.S. had signaled it wants to seek new terms from within the agreement, rather than withdraw outright and then renegotiate. But White House officials have forcefully pushed back against the idea.
Trump announced in a Rose Garden speech in June that the Paris agreement -- under which nearly 200 nations pledged voluntary targets to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions and to support poor countries grappling with rising global temperatures -- was bad for the U.S. economy. He said the United States would withdraw from the agreement but left open the possibility that he might try to "renegotiate" the accord.
When the State Department filed a formal notice to the United Nations that it intended to withdraw from the Paris agreement, officials made clear that Washington might rejoin if "suitable terms" were found.
Several diplomats said that while the United States' position may have been clear, its plans were not.
Ministers said Cohn did not clarify what it might take for the United States to remain a party to the accord, other than saying such conditions "are not there yet," according to two aides who received summaries of the meeting. Both said Cohn emphasized that the United States wanted to work with other countries on climate change and energy.
"It was quite clear that their position is, right now they are pulling out of the Paris agreement," said Catherine McKenna, Canada's environment minister. McKenna said she had asserted that the accord was "nonnegotiable and irreversible," but she said there was broad agreement that countries wanted to lower emissions without harming the economy.
"The fact that we're meeting is quite good," said Edna Molewa, the South African environment minister. "You know, in climate change discussions we believe in engagement, and engagement is very tough." She said she did not learn anything new from the meeting with Cohn but added, "It's important to understand where we come from."
Also at the meeting were ministers from Argentina, Brazil, the European Union, Japan and Australia. The White House has not released a full list of attendees.
One person familiar with the president's thinking said that the accord would have to be significantly changed for the U.S. to remain. In his June 1 speech withdrawing from the deal, Trump complained about U.S. contributions to a fund intended to help developing countries mitigate the consequences of climate change and about implied limits on U.S. fossil fuel production and industrial activity.
The person familiar with Trump's thinking said he doesn't expect to cut a deal to remain in the Paris accord while he's at the General Assembly this week or anytime soon, and that it's not a particularly hot topic within the White House at the moment. Other countries have not approached the U.S. with proposals to keep the world's second-largest emitter of carbon pollution in the agreement, the official said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said before a Monday meeting with Trump that the two leaders would talk about the accord. Macron is a leading proponent for the agreement. Trump didn't respond when a reporter asked if he would stay in the deal.
France's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, also warned against withdrawal from global engagement "out of fear or selfishness."
Le Drian said Macron will stress the universal threat of climate change.
"We consider that this agreement needs to be implemented, and it will be," Le Drian said. "We have heard the declarations made by President Trump and his intention not to respect the agreement, and we can only hope to convince him in the long run."
U.S. CLIMATE PROGRESS
Also on Monday, a new report found that efforts by cities, states and corporations to fight global warming have put the U.S. halfway toward its Paris climate accord goal.
The push by public and private leaders from New York to California has put greenhouse gases on track to fall 12 percent to 14 percent below 2005 levels over the next eight years, according to the study released by NewClimate Institute and The Climate Group. The U.S. pledged cuts of 26 percent to 28 percent during that period under a global pact brokered in the French capital in 2015.
The study uses data from CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), that includes commitments from 22 states, 54 cities and 250 U.S.-based businesses. Some of the largest reductions come from California, New York and Colorado, according to the study, released as world leaders and industry executives gather for Climate Week NYC and the U.N. general assembly.
"President Trump and all his tweets cannot stop our states from moving forward," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said during Climate Week NYC's opening ceremony. "He cannot stop any of the things we are doing."
In the private sector, commitments by companies to wean themselves off fossil fuels and source power from wind and solar farms have also been a key driver, the study found. Mars Inc. board member Stephen Badger said the economics of clean energy are driving that shift.
"We are already finding our bills to be less than what we would pay with fossil fuels," said Badger, whose McLean, Va.-based company has committed to spending more than $1 billion to cut its carbon emissions.
Information for this article was contributed by Lisa Friedman of The New York Times; by Jennifer Jacobs, Ewa Krukowska, Steven T. Dennis, Ari Natter and Joe Ryan of Bloomberg News; and by Anne Gearan of The Washington Post.
A Section on 09/19/2017
Print Headline: U.S. to leave Paris pact, major allies told