Leaked State Department Memo Orders Diplomats To Dodge Questions On Climate Change


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seen here back in June during a press conference in Sydney, Australia. Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

You’ve probably picked up on the fact that the Trump administration isn’t exactly advocating for action on climate change. Rallying against not just most of America itself, but pretty much the entire world, the White House can’t seem to decide whether to say that it thinks climate change is fake news or whether to just stick to the nonsense claim that the Paris agreement is a “bad deal”.

Either way, it seems that censoring the mere mention of both “climate change” and “Paris agreement” from federal agencies has now spilled out into the wider diplomatic realm. As revealed by Reuters, a leaked memo has ordered American diplomats and envoys to dodge questions regarding either while abroad.


Sent from the office of Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, the memo reminds staff that America will be withdrawing from the pioneering climate accords, and that its diplomatic language and behavior needs to be updated to align with this new reality.

A series of hypothetical questions are raised by the memo, which are likely to come up whenever international summits or gatherings take place. These include “Is the United States still committed to meeting its 2020 target of reducing emissions?” and “Does the Administration support action to adapt to the impacts of climate change?”

The answers to almost all the questions are non-committal or total dodges. The phrase “I have no information at this time” comes up on several occasions.

The only certainties are that the US will stop contributing to the Green Climate Fund – a program designed to help poorer countries adapt to climate change threats and transition to clean energy – and that it has abandoned its efforts to contribute towards cutting its carbon footprint in line with the Paris agreement.


Rather curiously, the communique highlights the fact that Trump said he was open to renegotiating the Paris agreement over time – something that all other signatories to the accords have dismissed as an impossibility. The State Department is apparently tired of being asked about this, and has essentially told its employees to zip it.

“Since the announcement, the Department has received many questions about whether we will seek to re-negotiate or amend the Paris Agreement, or negotiate an entirely new agreement,” it explains. “At this time, there are no plans to do so.”


At one point, the memo asks: “Does the United States have a climate change policy?” with an accidental tone of self-deprecation. When it comes to the White House, it’s clear the answer is to bury its head in the sand.

Fortunately, plenty of American states and cities are getting on with fighting the phenomenon regardless – something that this memo, right at the end, meekly notes that it supports for vague, freedom-based reasons.


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