U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will announce whether the United States will stay in the global climate-change agreement on June 1 as leaders from around the world urged him not to withdraw.
Washington insiders said on May 31 that Trump was likely to pull out of the landmark 2015 Paris accord signed by 195 countries, further straining relations with many U.S. allies and leaving the United States alongside Syria and Nicaragua as the only states not participating.
European leaders lobbied hard to try to persuade Trump at the last minute not to withdraw. But Trump said opponents of the accord in his Republican Party and industries like coal, oil, and and electric utilities have also been pushing hard to abandon the agreement.
"I'm hearing from a lot of people, both ways," Trump said at the White House on May 31. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump severely criticized the agreement and called global warming a hoax.
The pact is the first legally binding global deal to fight climate change. Virtually every country voluntarily committed to steps aimed at curbing global emissions of greenhouse gases.
The principle greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, which is generated by power plants and cars burning oil, coal, and natural gas. Scientists believe the accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases in the atmosphere is warming the planet.
The United States under former President Barack Obama's administration had committed to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
In Berlin, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said European allies had tried hard to convince Trump to stay in the agreement at the Group of Seven (G7) summit last week.
He said withdrawing from the accord for the United States won't be easy and will take years. "The Americans can't just leave the climate protection agreement. Mr. Trump believes that because he doesn't know the details."
Juncker said G7 leaders "tried to explain this in clear simple sentences to Mr. Trump," but "it looks like that attempt failed."
Word of a possible U.S. pullout from the agreement prompted derisive howls in the European Parliament on May 31.
"Climate change is not a fairy tale. It is a tough reality which affects peoples' daily lives," European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said.
"People die or are obliged to leave their homes because of desertification, lack of water, exposure to disease, extreme weather conditions. If we don't act swiftly and boldly, the huge human and economic cost will continue to increase."
In anticipation of a U.S. withdrawal, European officials said China and the European Union will seek on June 2 to bolster the agreement by recommitting themselves to full implementation of the accord.
Business Pros And Cons
Trump, a former real-estate executive, also heard from other business leaders who favor the agreement on May 31. The heads of dozens of major corporations, including ExxonMobil, Apple, Dow Chemical, Unilever, and Tesla, made last-minute appeals to stay with the accord.
Tesla's founder, Elon Musk, threatened to quit White House advisory councils the president asked him to join if Trump pulls out.
"I've done all I can to advise directly" to Trump and through others in the White House, Musk said.
But Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp, an Ohio-based coal company and major Trump campaign donor, urged Trump to withdraw from the deal.
A pullout by the United States, the world's second-largest contributor to carbon emissions behind China, could have sweeping implications.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who Trump considered for secretary of state, said on Twitter that affirmation of the Paris agreement "is not only about the climate: It is also about America remaining the global leader."
The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said a decision to withdraw would be "a stunning abdication of American leadership and a grave threat to our planet's future."
Pelosi said Trump would be "denying scientific truths, removing safeguards that protect our health and our environment, protecting polluters and...threatening our national and global security."
But Trump has insisted that the accord costs the U.S. economy trillions of dollars and thousands of jobs, while producing few tangible benefits. For him, a withdrawal might be a way of making good on his pledge to put "America First," ahead of international obligations negotiated by his predecessors.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters