Top Trump administration officials, including Rex Tillerson and HR McMaster, indicated Sunday that the US could consider remaining in the Paris climate accord.
On Saturday, the White House ultimately denied claims that it planned to change course to remain in the agreement, after a Wall Street Journal article reported that administration officials had said Trump was open to re-engaging with the deal. Trump had said in June that he planned to pull the US out of the landmark climate agreement.
On Sunday, both officials emphasized that the US wants to renegotiate for a more favorable deal, but also signaled that the administration was open to negotiations on the subject.
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, Tillerson stated that “The president said he is open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” adding that economic advisor Gary Cohn is leading the administration’s policy discussions.
“So I think the plan is for Director Cohn to consider other ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord. We want to be productive. We want to be helpful.”
McMaster said on ABC’s This Week that the US would consider sticking with the agreement, saying “if there’s an agreement that benefits the American people, certainly.”
“The president is open to any discussions that will help us improve the environment. That will help ensure our energy security and will advance out prosperity and the prosperity of American businesses and American workers.”
What it could mean for the US to negotiate a “better deal” is still unclear. According to German environment ministry state secretary Jochen Flasbarth:
“The Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated. National pledges can be updated but not weakened. After all, current pledges are not sufficient to limit global warming to 2C, let alone 1.5C.”
Tillerson said that Trump believes the deal is too favorable to China, but is open to “finding the right conditions” to remain in the agreement.
If these statements indeed indicate a reversal of Trump’s plan on the agreement, it would add to several surprising policy reversals recently, including an unexpected agreement on the debt ceiling and government funding with Democrats, and a reversal on his opposition to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That program, to which much of Trump’s base is opposed, protects immigrants who entered the country as minors, allowing them to avoid deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.