US & Canada

Arctic summit: Trump to make 'right decision for the US' on climate

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Media captionThe BBC's James Cook explains why the Arctic Circle summit in Alaska matters

The US will consider its interests first as it reviews its climate change policy, the secretary of state says.

Rex Tillerson told a meeting of the eight Arctic nations in Alaska that the US would not rush to make a decision and would consider their views.

President Donald Trump has expressed doubts over the human role in climate change and has said he may pull the US out of the Paris Accord to fight it.

Meanwhile, other Arctic countries have called for a cut on greenhouse gases.

They signed an agreement which stated there was a need for urgent global action.

Climate change was the biggest issue at the biennial meeting of the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, which was overshadowed by the uncertainties over Mr Trump's policy.

Mr Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, told the meeting that the administration was reviewing how it would approach climate change.

Image caption Climate campaigners fear US policy will damage attempts to combat climate change

"We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns," he said.

"We're not going to rush to make a decision. We're going to work to make the right decision for the United States."

Mr Trump is to decide whether the US will leave or reduce its commitments to the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which was negotiated by around 200 nations and signed in 2015.

An announcement is expected after a trip to Europe later this month.

The joint agreement by the Arctic Council mentioned the Paris accord only in a passing reference, which noted the deal's entry into force and implementation.

But the text did not recommit its members to meet the pledges made.

Reading between the lines: By James Cook, BBC News, Fairbanks, Alaska

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Some climate scientists here in Alaska say they are pleasantly surprised by the relatively tough language on climate change adopted by all eight Arctic Council nations including the United States.

The thrust of the text, argues Prof John Walsh, chief scientist at the University of Alaska's International Arctic Research Center, actually echoes the approach of the Obama administration.

The acceptance of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) and pollutants (like black carbon and aerosols) appears significant.

But a couple of things are missing. Although the logic of the statement insists that human activity is causing climate change, the word "human" is not actually present. Nor is there a commitment to implement the landmark Paris accord, an omission which is causing alarm among environmentalists.

Not only that, but many of the Trump administration's early policy decisions prioritised economic growth over environmental protection, and Mr Tillerson continues to insist that American climate policy remains under review.

So, in short, it is far too early to conclude that the White House has suddenly been persuaded by mainstream scientific opinion on global warming - and with US politics in astonishing flux, the Fairbanks Declaration may be no more than a holding statement.

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