White House officials have sent mixed messages on whether America remains in a global climate agreement, with a top US diplomat suggesting the country could re-engage with the Paris pact.
Donald Trump moved to pull America from its commitments under the Paris Climate Accord earlier this year, saying the effort to blunt the effect of climate change by reducing emissions would hobble the US economy.
But in remarks on the CBS program Face the Nation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not unequivocally deny a Wall Street Journal report that the administration was exploring avenues to remain in the pact. After being directly asked, Mr Tillerson said the US could remain the accord “under the right conditions”.
“The President said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue” Mr Tillerson said, noting that National Economic Council director Gary Cohn – a Democrat who reportedly advocated for America standing by its commitments under the accord – would “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. The US actually has a tremendous track record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions”, said Mr Tillerson, who was said to have previously backed US involvement with the pact.
A starkly different reaction came from National Security Adviser HR McMaster, who dismissed the Wall Street Journal story as “false” and emphasised that Mr Trump was “out of the Paris climate agreement”.
Lisa Murray’s climate change photography
“The President decided to pull out of the Paris Accord because it was a bad deal for the American people and because it was a bad deal for the environment,” Mr McMaster said on Fox News Sunday. “It gave the worst polluters the ability to continue polluting and emitting carbon without significantly reducing those levels”.
Arnold Schwarzenegger attacks Donald Trump’s climate change stance
The White House said Mr Trump was open to a renegotiated climate deal that was more favourable to America. Mr McMaster said the “door is open” for a version that mitigates “fundamental flaws” in the initial iteration American signed onto under Barack Obama.
“There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favourable to our country” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement.