European leaders have mounted a last-ditch effort to stop President Donald Trump from abandoning the Paris climate accord, using multiple meetings this week to sell the American leader on the global agreement to reduce carbon emissions. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Trump at length about the climate deal during a meeting yesterday in Brussels. At the Vatican earlier in the week, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin made his own pro-Paris pitch to Trump and his advisers. The matter was also a central focus of Trump’s two days of talks at the Group of 7 summit, which kicked off today on the picturesque Sicilian coast. At the close of today’s talks, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said six of the G-7 nations — Italy, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Japan — confirmed “our commitment and our determination” to the Paris agreement.
The United States, meanwhile, confirmed “a period of reflection” on the issue, Gentiloni said. The White House’s slow decision-making on the future of the landmark 2015 climate change agreement created the opening for the European leaders’ persuasion campaign. Multiple White House meetings on the matter were delayed in recent weeks, and Trump advisers ultimately said he would not make a decision until after he returns to Washington from a nine-day, five-stop international trip. As a candidate, Trump vowed to withdraw the US from the accord, which was negotiated during the Obama administration. But as the opening months of his presidency have shown, Trump can be moved to change his positions and can be heavily influenced by other world leaders.
He backed away from his tough campaign talk about trade with China after a summit with President Xi Jinping and abandoned his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record following his warm welcome in the desert kingdom earlier this week. Gary Cohn, Trump’s top White House economic adviser, said the president “wants to hear what the Europeans have to say” about the climate accord. In Washington, discussions over the climate deal have sown divisions within the White House, splitting the nationalists and the globalists competing for influence within Trump’s administration. One potential compromise that’s emerged in the White House discussions involves staying in the climate accord, but adjusting the US emissions targets.
Cohn hinted at that prospect as he briefed reporters last night as Air Force One flew from Brussels to Sicily, the final stop on Trump’s trip. “The last levels we put out in the Paris agreement were levels that would be constraining to our economic growth,” Cohn said. “But then you get into the whole discussion on Paris, is it non-binding, is it not non-binding, can you change your levels, how easy is it to change your levels.” In a striking comment given Trump’s support during the campaign for American coal miners, Cohn also said “coal doesn’t even really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock.” He singled out natural gas as “such a cleaner fuel” and also noted that the US could become a “manufacturing powerhouse” by investing in wind and solar energy. Nearly 200 countries are part of the Paris accord and each set their own emissions targets, which are not legally binding. The US pledged to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons of annual emissions.