Conservatives ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Trump Will Ditch The Paris Climate Agreement

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Conservatives who support withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change are “cautiously optimistic” President Donald Trump will live up to his campaign pledge to withdraw from the agreement.

“We remain cautiously optimistic,” a source familiar with the situation told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The White House counsel has disputed the opinions of the State Department lawyers, who are heavily invested in Paris,” the source said.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that opponents of the Paris agreement “gained the upper hand” in the raging debate within the White House over the fate of the deal. Administration officials are split on whether to keep Trump’s campaign promise to “cancel” the agreement.

WaPo’s report came after Trump said Paris is “a broken system of global plunder at American expense” while at a Sunday campaign rally. Trump is expected to make a decision on the U.N. deal in the next two weeks.

Conservative and free market groups have largely opposed leaving the Paris agreement, arguing it would make it harder for the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era energy and environmental regulations.

Those groups include the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), American Energy Alliance and the Heritage Foundation.

WaPo reported “White House counsel Don McGahn informed participants that the United States could not remain in the agreement and lower the level of carbon cuts it would make by 2025.”

McGahn’s analysis “represented a change from the White House counsel’s earlier analysis and is at odds with the State Department’s view of the agreement,” WaPo wrote.

“The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations around the world as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing,” Paul Bledsoe, a climate adviser to President Bill Clinton, told The Washington Post.

“The U.S. would be risking pariah status on the international stage by withdrawing from Paris, and even a fig leaf approach of technically staying in the agreement while ignoring most of its provisions would be better than pulling out altogether,” Bledsoe said.

But a White House source told Axios the internal struggle in the administration is “tough.” Career Department of State officials have a vested interest in keeping the U.S. in the Paris agreement, which they spent years working to put together under the Obama administration.

State Department officials recently circulated a legal memo that laid out how the U.S. could legally exit the Paris agreement. But that memo subtly pushes the idea that there’s no downside to remaining in the deal since emissions targets aren’t legally binding.

The Obama administration calling the Paris agreement an “executive agreement” rather than a “treaty” means it would take the U.S. at least two years to legally withdraw from the deal.

A paper published Wednesday by CEI senior fellows Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis argues for another withdrawal option — call the Paris agreement a treaty and send it to the Senate.

Paris meets the Department of State’s criteria to be called a “treaty by virtue of its costs and risks, ambition compared to predecessor climate treaties, dependence on subsequent legislation by Congress, intent to affect state laws, U.S. historic practice with regard to multilateral environmental agreements,” reads Horner and Lewis’s report.

“The Agreement endangers America’s capacity for self-government,” the report states. “It empowers one administration to make legislative commitments for decades to come, without congressional authorization, and regardless of the outcome of future elections.”

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