President Donald Trump should continue international discussions on environmental issues even if the Paris climate agreement is a “bad deal,” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt said Sunday.
The Oklahoma Republican did not tip his hat as to the future of the much-talked about climate deal, which was signed by former President Barack Obama and requires the U.S. to dramatically reduce greenhouse gasses. Trump’s Democratic predecessor signed the deal last year without the Senate’s consent.
“To demonstrate the leadership that we have shown on this issue with China and India and other nations is very important and discussions should ensue,” Pruitt said during an interview on Fox News, “but what Paris represents is a bad deal for this country.”
His comments come as Trump prepares to meet later this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has confirmed his country’s pledge to stay with the agreement. The former real estate tycoon turned U.S. president made breaking away from the deal a key component of his presidential campaign.
Other Chinese officials are trying to pressure the White House into keeping Obama’s commitment, which aims to keep so-called man-made global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and commits the U.S. to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, for one, said earlier this month that all parties privy to the talks should “fulfill their promises and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of this agreement.”
China’s lofty promises and posturing on climate issues comes in stark contrast to the communist country’s poor environmental record. It is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, followed by the U.S.
There are few indications the country intends on reducing these levels, despite media and environmentalists arguing otherwise. China promised to “peak” emissions by 2030, even as its government hashes out plans to increase its coal capacity up to 20 percent — climate scientists consider coal production one of the primary drivers of global warming.
Pruitt’s comments come as a small number White House officials argue adhering to the agreement might be in the country’s best interests.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, has indicated he would support the deal if Trump can reduce some of the objectives hammered out during the agreement talks. The former ExxonMobil CEO believes staying on board the contentious climate deal could give the president leverage on diplomatic talks.
North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, one of Trump’s senior energy adviser, also told reporters last month that he was “impressed” with White House advisers who believe the agreement is not necessarily dead on arrival.
Pruitt, who sued the EPA more than a dozen times while serving as Oklahoma’s AG, also clarified comments some reporters suggest shows the agency’s chief doesn’t believe in man-made climate change.
He said that “human activities” do contribute in some “measure” to climate change, “The real question,” he said, “is how much are we contributing to that and measuring that with precision.”
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