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Trump to announce decision on global climate pact soon
[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was nearing an announcement on whether to pull out of a global pact to fight climate change and was listening to people on both sides, while a source close to the matter said Trump was preparing for a US withdrawal.
A US pullout could deepen a rift with US allies and the United States would join Syria and Nicaragua as the world's only non-participants in the 195-nation accord agreed upon in Paris in 2015.
Responding to shouted questions from reporters in the White House Oval Office, Mr Trump declined to say whether he had made up his mind, saying, "You'll find out very soon."
"I'm hearing from a lot of people, both ways," Mr Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax aimed at weakening US industry, said as he met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Trump was working out the terms of the planned withdrawal with US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, an oil industry ally and climate change doubter.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined during a news briefing to say whether the Republican president might opt for an action short of complete withdrawal.
Under the pact, virtually every nation voluntarily committed to combat climate change with steps aimed at curbing global emissions of "greenhouse" gases. These include carbon dioxide generated from burning of fossil fuels that scientists blame for a warming planet, sea level rise, droughts and more frequent violent storms. It was the first legally binding global climate deal.
Under the pact, the United States committed to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.
In the past few days, the chief executives of dozens of companies have made last-minute appeals to Trump.
The CEOs of ExxonMobil Corp, Apple Inc, Dow Chemical Co, Unilever NV and Tesla Inc were among those urging Trump to remain in the agreement, with Tesla's Elon Musk threatening to quit White House advisory councils of which he is a member if the president pulls out.
Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp, an Ohio-based coal company and major Trump campaign donor, urged Mr Trump to withdraw.
Mr Trump has said the accord would cost the US economy trillions of dollars without tangible benefit. For the Republican president, a withdrawal would reflect his "America First" approach to policy, unencumbered by international obligations.
Mr Trump refused to endorse the landmark climate change accord at a summit of the G7 group of wealthy nations on Saturday in Italy, saying he needed more time to decide.
A US decision to withdraw from the accord could further alienate American allies in Europe already wary of Mr Trump and call into question US leadership and trustworthiness on one of the world's leading issues.
A pullout also would be one more step by the Republican president to erase the legacy of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, who helped broker the accord and praised it during a trip to Europe this month.
Mr Trump has changed his mind on large decisions before, even after signaling a move in the opposite direction.
A US pullout could have sweeping implications for the deal, which relies heavily on the commitment of big polluter nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
The United States is the world's second-biggest carbon dioxide emitter behind China. A shift away from coal to cleaner-burning and cheaper natural gas in recent years has cut US carbon emissions to near 30-year lows, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The Sierra Club said a US withdrawal from the Paris deal would be a "historic mistake." Friends of the Earth said the action would "sacrifice our planet to the fossil fuel industry"and make America the world's "foremost climate villain".
Democratic US lawmakers said withdrawal would undermine US credibility and its position as a global leader, empowering nations like China to not only drive the climate agenda and set international standards but also reap the economic benefits of a growing clean energy sector.
At a conference near Los Angeles, Democrat Hillary Clinton, whom Mr Trump defeated for the presidency last year, said withdrawing would be a mistake.
"Part of what keeps us going is that America's word is good, and that you stand with your prior administration whether it was of your party or not," she said.
US coal company shares dipped alongside renewable energy stocks on Wednesday. The market reaction reflected concerns, raised by some coal companies in recent months, that a US departure from the agreement could unleash a global backlash against coal interests outside the United States.
Other countries rallied behind the Paris accord on Wednesday.
A US pullout would be disappointing, but the European Union stands ready to take global leadership on the issue, European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said in Brussels.
The European Union and China are working on a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment to climate and energy policy and the implementation of the Paris agreement, according to an EU official with knowledge of the plans.
Mr Trump vowed during his 2016 presidential campaign to "cancel" the Paris deal within 100 days of becoming president on Jan 20 as part of an effort to bolster US oil and coal industries. That promise helped rally supporters sharing his skepticism of global efforts to police US carbon emissions.
Supporters of the climate pact are concerned that a US exit could lead other nations to weaken their commitments or also withdraw, softening an accord that scientists have said is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
After taking office, Mr Trump faced pressure to stay in the deal from investors, international powers and business leaders, including some in the coal industry. He also had to navigate a split among his advisers.
Senior adviser Steve Bannon, who wants Mr Trump to focus on actions that will rev up his conservative political base, has long opposed the Paris accord. Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law and top adviser, has come to the view that the standards set out in the agreement did not work for the US economy and the question was whether to try to change those standards within the agreement or pull out, another senior administration official said.
Mr Trump's daughter, Ivanka, favours staying in, the official said, and she has sought to ensure her father heard all sides in the debate.
Mr Trump has already moved to dismantle Obama-era climate change regulations, including the US Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing emissions from main coal-fired power plants.