What On Earth Is Going On With Trump And The Paris Agreement?


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


Trump, pictured here in June, announcing to the world that America would withdraw from the Paris climate change accords. ABC News via YouTube

An article in the Wall Street Journal for a brief moment reported that the US may not exit the Paris accords after all, but will be looking to renegotiate. Shortly afterward, the White House declared that the country would be leaving the agreement as planned in 2020. So what’s going on here?

Back in June, when President Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris agreement, he appeared to leave the door open to returning, but with a huge caveat.


“We will begin negotiations to re-enter the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction, on terms fair to the US – its businesses, workers, taxpayers,” he said in the White House Rose Garden. “So we’re getting out, but we’ll start to negotiate, to see if we can make a deal that’s fair. If we can that’s great, if we can’t that’s fine.”

Other signatories of the agreement – particularly those in the European Union (EU) – said that there would be no such renegotiating, and instead doubled-down on their efforts to cut their country’s carbon footprints. However, every now and then, Trump has brought this idea up, either directly or indirectly.


Then, this Saturday, the Wall Street Journal explained that after a meeting of environment ministers this weekend in Montreal, Miguel Arias Canete – the EU commissioner on climate – said that officials from the Trump administration said they would either stay in the accords or seek to review its terms. This was widely reported as a variation on “America isn’t leaving Paris after all,” but the White House was quick to respond.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Trump administration’s press secretary, tweeted soon afterward that “our position on the Paris agreement has not changed,” adding that “@POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms.”


This is obviously a silly statement, as saving the planet from the nightmares of climate change is beneficial to America, which happens to be attached to the planet. It would also significantly boost both jobs and the economy by sticking to the accords, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Now it’s emerged that the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the US will remain in the accords if a compromise can be reached that is “fair and balanced.”

The Secretary, who once advocated for remaining in the Paris agreement, told CBS this Sunday that “under the right conditions, the president said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue.” 

So at the time of writing, America is still leaving, but is looking to stay under some as-of-yet unknown terms.


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