24th Mar 2018

US officials seek 'story' to sway Trump on climate

  • 'I don't think it already reached his table', an EU source said about the US commitments on climate change (Photo: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

American civil servants in the department of energy and the White House are “looking for a story to tell” president Donald Trump that will persuade him to stay part of the Paris climate agreement, according to an EU official.

“How can they respect the pre-election pledges of the president and at the same time stay in the Paris agreement,” the source said on condition of anonymity. The source was part of a delegation that visited the United States recently.

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“They want to have a narrative, they want to have a story.”

Trump has called climate change a “hoax”, but also has stated he would keep an “open mind” on the issue.

“I don't think it already reached his table,” the official said about Trump. “Nobody can guarantee what will be the final decision of the president.”

The narrative to convince Trump to stick to US pledges on curbing greenhouse gases, made by his predecessor Barack Obama, would involve the “business case” - investing in clean energy would create jobs, growth and spur innovation.

That is also the line the European Commission has taken since Trump took office, to convince the US that climate-friendly policies also make sense from an economic point of view.

Jos Delbeke, director-general of the European Commission's climate action department, said in January there is “one reality that may also be a reality where even Mr Trump cannot go against”.

“That is that the business dynamics is as active in the United States as it is in Europe or elsewhere," Delbeke said.

EU commissioner for Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic, said last week in a speech in Washington that energy consumption can decrease while maintaining economic growth.

“The clean energy transition does not run counter to economic interest, as often claimed,” said Sefcovic.

Speaking to reporters on Monday (13 March), Sefcovic added that the discussion within the US government on what to do about climate change is “ongoing”.

“It would be premature for me to tell you they are definitely going to stay, or that they are definitely going to leave [the Paris agreement]”, argued Sefcovic.

“My feeling from the meetings which I had there, was that they are evaluating all the aspects, and they fully understand the advantage of being at the diplomatic table where such important things are being discussed,” he added.

During Sefcovic' US trip, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, called into question the nearly universally accepted scientific premise that CO2 is causing global warming.

Although Sefcovic did not meet Pruitt, he said the comment “reflects the plethora of views and positions which are currently on the table”.

“It really demonstrates how the discussion is really ongoing and why I think it will take a while before these issues will be more permanently settled,” remarked Sefcovic.


The Slovak commissioner did meet with the new secretary for Energy, Rick Perry, who was “very much open to international cooperation”.

“Mr Perry is a charmer and he made an excellent impression,” said Sefcovic, adding that the atmosphere was “excellent” and that Perry had a “very good understanding of all the energy files”.

The EU has invited the Americans to continue the dialogue in annual summits, known as the EU-US Energy Council.

Sefcovic said Perry showed a “genuine interest to cooperate” and was “positively inclined”.

“I believe we will have this meeting this year,” Sefcovic noted.

Trump delays climate decision

The White House said it would take more time to decide if the US should remain part of the Paris climate agreement, while talks are underway in Bonn.

US prevents G7 energy statement

The United States did not sign a joint statement at a G7 summit on energy because it did not want to include a reference to the Paris climate agreement.

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