The White House said Saturday it has not changed its position on the Paris climate accord and will withdraw from the agreement that President Trump has called unfair to the United States unless it can be re-negotiated.
The statement came in response to published reports by the Wall Street Journal and AFP that a top European climate official said the U.S. would “not re-negotiate the Paris Accord, but will try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement."
The climate official, Miguel Arias Canete, was meeting with ministers from some 30 countries in Montreal on Saturday to push forward on implementing the Paris deal without the U.S.
The White House swiftly denied any change in its stance on the landmark deal.
"There has been no change in the United States' position on the Paris agreement,” the White House said in a statement. “As the president has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted: "Our position on the Paris agreement has not changed. @POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms."
Our position on the Paris agreement has not changed. @POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 16, 2017
In June, Trump said the United States would begin the three-year process for withdrawing while simultaneously signaling he was willing to reconsider if the United States could get more favorable terms.
“So we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we’ll see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said.
Under the terms of the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, the earliest a nation can formally withdraw is November 2020 — the same month Trump faces re-election. But because the greenhouse gas reduction targets are largely voluntary, Trump said he would immediately "cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord."Many Republicans believe the Paris accord unfairly limits American job and economic growth with little concrete return.
When Trump announced his pullout, European leaders quickly responded that the accord was "irreversible" and not open to re-negotiation. "We firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies," said a joint statement by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Trump has already made clear that he views the climate accord as an obstacle to his goal of creating jobs and ensuring energy independence. In March, he signed an executive order rolling back most of the Obama-era environmental regulations that the previous administration had used as a U.S. down payment toward its nationally determined contributions.
The decision made good on a Trump campaign promise to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” But Trump has also been known to change his mind, as he did in April with the North American Free Trade Agreement.
By leaving open the possibility of re-entering the agreement, he ended up on the more moderate end of the range of options the White House had been exploring. They ranged from a re-negotiation within the existing framework to a U.S. withdrawal from the underlying United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a 1992 treaty adopted by every nation in the world that agreed on the need to address warming global temperatures.
Contributing: Gregory Korte