Team Trump Debating Next Steps on Paris Climate Agreement

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President Donald Trump’s top aides are meeting Thursday to debate whether or not the U.S. should pull out of the Paris climate accord—a global pact aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The White House confirmed to FOX Business that the meeting is set for 1:30pm ET. It is likely to be a fiery powwow, considering Trump’s most trusted advisors are split on the issue.

Earlier this week, Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that while he is for the U.S. remaining as part of the 194-nation agreement, he thinks it should be reworked.

“I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from the Paris accord,” the former Texas governor said on Tuesday. “I will say that we need to renegotiate it.”

His comments come as some of Trump’s top advisors remain split on the issue. EPA chief Scott Pruitt and Trump’s senior strategist, Stephen K. Bannon want to back out of the pledge, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s son-in-law and daughter--Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump—are reportedly urging the president to remain committed to the agreement.

Pruitt told Fox News earlier this month that in his opinion, the U.S. should exit the accord as soon as possible.

“It’s a bad deal for America. It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India has no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all our costs,” Pruitt said.

On the other hand, Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, supported the deal during his confirmation testimony in January, saying, “We’re better served by being at that table than by leaving that table.” Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and BP also have endorsed the pact.

And while Trump’s daughter Ivanka has yet to offer a concrete public statement on her thoughts around climate change, Politico has reported that she wants to become an ambassador for the cause. She has reportedly met with former Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore and climate change activist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio privately to discuss the issue.

The international agreement—which is non-binding—was forged in Paris in December 2015 and officially went into effect last November. Under the agreement, more than 195 countries pledged to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons of annual emissions.

Earlier this week, Gore teamed up with a group made up of energy executives, activist leaders and investment bankers who have pledged to fight rising temperatures across the globe. The group called Energy Transitions Commission’s (ETC) is calling for countries to spend up to $600 billion a year over the next two decades to boost green energy deployment and energy efficiency equipment.

Ed Russo, president and CEO of ER Advisors, who previously worked for the Trump Organization for 17 years and was in charge of all environmental affairs for the resorts, says while he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for the U.S. to leave the Paris accord, the overall agreement does have some shortfalls.

"I would not recommend that the United States disengage from the Paris Climate Summit at this time. However, it must be clearly understood that the covenants of the summit fall short of addressing serious air and water pollution problems worldwide. A much greater effort must be focused on existing pollution problems and processes that continue to pollute our planet.

"It has been frustrating to observe this overwhelming concern regarding carbon while methane and other pollutants continue to be discharged into our atmosphere,” Russo tells FOX Business.

Andrew Light, former senior climate change advisor at the State Department, tells FOX Business that if Trump decides to leave the agreement, it will have a ripple effect that will go way beyond climate change.

“If President Trump now decides to leave the Paris Agreement, he will be answering for that decision on issues that go well beyond climate, finding it difficult if not impossible to get his agenda across to a world stunned by this decision, starting at the G7 Summit in May,” Light says.

Other environmentalists argue the accord, as is, can help Trump deliver on another campaign promise: creating jobs.

“Why would President Trump walk away from a deal that brings jobs, security and prosperity for Americans? The United States’ economic and national security interests are best served by staying in the Paris Agreement. But if the U.S. withdraws from its Paris commitments, it would be left out and left behind at a time when countries around the world are seizing the huge opportunities from taking action,” David Waskow, director at the International Climate Initiative tells FOX Business.

While Trump promised during the campaign to “cancel” the Paris agreement, shortly after winning the election he told the New York Times that he had an "open mind" regarding the 195-country pact. And last month, after meeting with Trump, Gore told The Washington Post that he thinks “there is a realistic chance” Trump will opt to keep the United States as a participant in the agreement.

“I do believe there is an ongoing deliberation in the White House about what to do with respect to the Paris agreement,” Gore told The Washington Post. “I will simply express the hope that there is a realistic chance that the president will ultimately decide that the cost to the United States and to his presidency of withdrawing from the Paris agreement would far outweigh any quote-unquote benefits from withdrawing.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer has told reporters that the president will make up his mind on the Paris agreement before a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations in Taormina, Italy in late May.