Paris Agreement: Trump's behind-the-scenes battle

Anthony Zurcher
North America reporter
@awzurcheron Twitter

  • Published
Trump at Aberdeen Golf CourseImage source, Getty Images

While a presidential decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement would roil the international community and frustrate White House advocates of addressing climate change - including Donald Trump's own daughter - there are formidable forces within the administration in favour of such a move.

Economic nationalists like senior adviser Steve Bannon view withdrawal as visible way for the US to demonstrate that it's putting its own economic interests ahead of the concerns of the "international community".

Movement conservatives, including Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, are keen to strike a blow to the environmentalist coalition, which they view as creeping socialism cloaked in an earth-friendly guise.

Meanwhile Mr Trump's working-class supporters - particularly those in the economically distressed coal-producing regions of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania that delivered an Electoral College victory to the president - are more concerned about jobs and their way of life, rather than the distant, amorphous threat of rising sea levels or shifting climate patterns.

Media caption,

Aleem Maqbool reports from "coal country" in West Virginia

Ivanka Trump, along with her husband (and senior White House adviser) Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis, were reportedly strong advocates for remaining in the agreement - for a range of environmental, diplomatic and national security reasons.

The president's daughter even arranged for her father to meet politician-turned-activist Al Gore to discuss the issue during the presidential transition.

The efforts always figured to be an uphill battle, however, given the issues and interests that formed the heart of Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

Mr Trump once notably called global warming a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese, but over the course of last year's campaign he was largely silent on environmental issues.

He spoke early and often about jobs, the economy and government overregulation, however, and will likely frame any move to abandon the Paris agreement as evidence that his presidency is taking action to put more money in American pockets.

If such a move angers the international elite, US liberals and media talking heads, so much the better.