As President Donald Trump prepares to attend the Group of Seven Summit in Italy on Friday and Saturday, he has allowed international pressure to build over a decision on whether the United States should stay in the Paris climate agreement.
Observers see the summit as one of the most significant opportunities for international supporters of the Paris deal to make their case directly to the president. The White House initially planned to make a decision before the summit, press secretary Sean Spicer said in March. But earlier this month, Spicer said an announcement would be put off until later.
Myron Ebell, who led the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency and hopes to see the United States pull out of the deal, said in an email last week the summit is the deal supporters’ “best shot to get the president to break his promise.”
In the meantime, people on both sides of the issue have ramped up the pressure on Trump. Pope Francis gave the president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for action on climate change during their meeting. The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, also raised the issue in a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to pool reports.
American opponents of the deal have continued to try to hold the president to his campaign promise to “cancel” the Paris Agreement. On Thursday, 22 Republican senators including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to Trump urging him to exit the agreement. And 10 state attorneys general sent Trump a similar letter Tuesday.
Although the Paris Agreement is not a legally binding treaty, both letters argue remaining in the deal could prompt lawsuits against some of the administration’s actions to promote the use of fossil fuels.
The conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, where Ebell is director of the Center for Energy and Environment, also ran a cable TV ad last Thursday urging Trump to exit the deal.
Attending the G7 Summit without a decision on Paris also gives Trump the opportunity to find a way to stay in the deal without too much pushback by saying he renegotiated the United States’s commitments, said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental group that supports the agreement.
“If Trump thinks there is a deal to be made, what better moment than when he’s at the table with other G7 leaders?” Diringer said in a phone interview Thursday. “If we’re staying in, he needs to be able to explain to his base why he’s backing away from a campaign promise. The way to do that is to say he got a better deal.”
Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who wants to see the United States pull out of the deal, said it looks like the president’s adversaries hope “to capitalize on the relative isolation of POTUS during the G-7.”
Foreign leaders may convince Trump to stay in the deal, or they may “seize, by leak or public statement, on any assertion he made however noncommittal as grounds to claim Trump assured them he was keeping us in the Paris treaty,” Horner said in an email Thursday.
Overall, an extended debate over the issue is a challenge for those who want to see the United States exit the agreement, Horner said. The “legacy media, greens and industry lobbies are so vastly better positioned to exert pressure and outlast those who support keeping his promise, in a sustained campaign,” Horner added.