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21st Jan 2019

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Trump says US could stay in Paris deal

  • Norwegian PM Solberg and US president Trump met in private for 15 minutes in Washington (Photo: Statsministerens kontor)

US president Donald Trump said that his country could "conceivably" remain party to the Paris climate agreement, after meeting Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday (10 January).

"Frankly, it's an agreement that I have no problem with, but I had a problem with the agreement that they signed, because as usual they made a bad deal," said Trump at a joint press conference in the White House.

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With 'they', he was referring to the previous administration under Barack Obama, which in 2015 together with most of the world's nations signed the first-ever truly global climate treaty in the French capital.

Last summer, Trump said the US would pull out of the agreement, although legally speaking the US cannot leave the treaty until 2020.

He had also said that the US could stay in if the treaty was renegotiated, something which the EU and other nations quickly ruled out would ever happen.

Nevertheless, the US president spoke as if the country had already left the agreement.

"We could conceivably go back in," he noted.

As before, Trump made several incorrect statements about the Paris treaty.

"It put great penalties on us," he said about the agreement.

"It took a lot of our asset values. We are a country rich in gas and coal and oil, and lots of other things, and there was a tremendous penalty for using it," he added.

There is nothing in the Paris deal which bans specific types of fuels, nor are there any penalties.

The treaty takes a bottom-up approach, with each country making its own commitments towards reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions, and preparing for climate change.

The treaty included promises made by the US – by Trump's predecessor Obama – but there will be no legal consequences if they are not kept.

Despite being asked, Trump did not specify what changes were needed in the Paris deal to persuade him to keep the US in.

"The Paris accord would have taken away our competitive edge. We're not gonna let that happen. I'm not gonna let that happen," he said.

Trump said that climate was not discussed at length at the meetings, which included a 15-minute talk between Solberg and Trump, and a one-hour meeting with other officials in the room as well.

"It wasn't a major topic, I must tell you, we talked about other things, including mostly trade," said Trump, who boasted that the US had a trade surplus with Norway.

Solberg silent on Trump errors

While Solberg defended the Paris treaty, saying the Nordic country was "committed" to it, she did not publicly correct Trump's wrong statements.

"Norway is combating climate change. It's an important issue for us," Solberg merely said.

She did note that green policies can lead to business opportunities, and noted that the US company Tesla was selling many electric cars in Norway.

This fits with one of political and diplomatic Europe's main strategies, which is to hammer home the point that climate-friendly policies make business sense, in the hope that Trump is more susceptible to that argument.

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