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UK said to lobby Trump officials to stay in Paris climate deal

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 22:20

[LONDON] The UK government is seeking to convince Donald Trump to support the landmark Paris climate deal, touting the economic benefits of clean energy while steering clear of the debate about climate science, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

British government representatives stationed in Washington have been talking to officials in the US president's administration about climate policy, focusing on the jobs and growth that tackling pollution can bring to the US, according to energy official who who isn't authorised to speak to the media and asked not to be named.

Mr Trump has sent mixed signals about US climate policies. He pledged during his campaign to pull the US out of the 2015 United Nations accord on greenhouse gases and to support burning coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Since then, he told The New York Times that he was keeping an "open mind" about the deal and named as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who supported the UN effort in Paris and said the US to retain a seat at the discussions.

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European leaders are looking at how to preserve the Paris framework for fighting climate change, which underpins policies across the region limiting emissions and pushing industry to move away from polluting fuels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads the Group of 20 nations this year, also is emphasizing the business benefits of turning toward renewable energy, a German official said in December.

The talks between UK and US officials haven't gone very far if only because Trump's administration is so new and he hasn't appointed people to serve at lower posts in the departments involved.

Yet to be confirmed by Congress include Scott Pruitt, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Rick Perry, who Mr Trump appointed to the Department of Energy.

The British official said Mr Trump may be more inclined to listen to the UK over the European Union because he has backed the UK's decision to leave the European Union. Mr Trump lauded Prime Minister Theresa May at a meeting in Washington last month and set in motion the groundwork for a trade deal between the US and Britain.

Mrs May's office at No 10 Downing Street didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Businesses and environmental groups have urged Mrs May to raise the issue of climate change with Mr Trump, and company executives have been emphasising the job-creating opportunities that come from cutting back on pollution. The most recent figures from the US Energy Department show about 600,000 Americans with jobs generating power with green technologies compared to about 150,000 working with fossil fuels.

Economic arguments may resonate with Mr Trump, who has pledged to revive the coal industry and jobs in areas where mines have closed down while questioning climate science. Spending on clean energy in the US reached US$58.6 billion last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

On Monday, a group of governors that included eight Republicans released a letter to Mr Trump saying wind and solar are crucial economic engines for impoverished rural regions. And last month, more than 600 US companies including DuPont Co, Johnson & Johnson and Monsanto Co issued a statement urging the president not to withdraw from the Paris, saying it will generate trillions of dollars in clean energy investments.

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