OSLO/PARIS (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will face pressure from other Group of Seven leaders at a summit this month to keep the United States in a global agreement to combat climate change after he put off a decision on whether to quit the pact.
Trump, who doubts climate change is man-made and made a campaign pledge to “cancel” the 2015 Paris Agreement, postponed on Tuesday a planned decision on whether to stay or leave that had been due before the May 26-27 summit in Italy.
The delay, until after Trump returns to Washington, would give him more time to meet with his advisers and decide what is “in the best interest of the United States”, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
It also gives other G7, who all support the Paris plan to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies by the end of the century to limit global warming, a chance to put their case to Trump face-to-face.
“The decision to delay by the White House is an opportunity to discuss the issue in detail,” a French official said. “The G7 is the best place for that because it’s an informal setting where talking about multilateral issues is the priority.”
Trump has faced pleas from many leaders, including France’s President-elect Emmanuel Macron on Monday, to stay even though Trump’s plans to bolster the U.S. coal and oil industries are out of line with Paris’ drive for cleaner energy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also reaffirmed backing for the Paris Agreement on Tuesday. And many nations at U.N. negotiations in Bonn, Germany, this week concerning details of the Paris Agreement have said they will push on regardless.
But some delegates at the Bonn talks said it was unclear whether the delay meant Trump was willing to be swayed by other G7 nations - Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Canada.
“Trump’s been back and forward so much on climate change. Nobody knows what to think,” one European diplomat said, adding that Trump might simply want to avoid criticisms from other G7 leaders by delaying an announcement of a U.S. pullout.
A U.N. panel of climate scientists says it is at least 95 percent probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are the main cause of climate change since 1950.
Global average temperatures have hit record highs in each of the past three years. Warming is projected to cause worsening droughts, sea level rises, floods, heatwaves and extinctions of wildlife.
“The more opportunities we have to make the case for staying with the agreement, the better,” Thoriq Ibrahim, Environment Minister of the Maldives who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States in Bonn, told Reuters.
A U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord could harm prospects for U.S. cooperation with other G7 nations on other issues from trade to national security, said David Waskow, of the Washington-based World Resources Institute think-tank. “It’s much more than climate change.”
Trump’s advisers and cabinet chiefs have been split over whether Trump should pull the United States out or stay and try to reshape the agreement, according to senior administration officials and several people briefed on the talks.
His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are senior presidential advisers, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are in favour of remaining. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and senior adviser Steve Bannon have urged Trump to withdraw.
The accord has no sanctions for non-compliance but has a principle that nations will set ever tougher goals for action this century. Trump’s pro-coal plans would weaken former president Barack Obama’s goal to cut U.S. emissions by between 26 and 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels.
With extra reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Gareth Jones