President Trump could announce his intention to leave the Paris Agreement tomorrow or Friday, but his thinking on the issue could still change, several sources said today.
After months of debate in the White House, the president is racing toward a self-imposed deadline over the next "few days." He appears to be leaning toward ending the United States’ involvement in the global pact, but some administration officials are suggesting that he might change his mind.
The uncertainty over Trump’s decision is leaving room for last-minute lobbying by both sides — those who want the president to abide by his campaign promise to "cancel" the deal, and others who argue that it would encourage a global power vacuum that might be filled by U.S. competitors, like China.
Trump’s schedule offers evidence of that. Today, he meets with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who accepts the science of climate change and supports staying in the accord with weakened emissions targets.
Yesterday, he met with U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who argues that staying in could disrupt the administration’s efforts to repeal climate regulations implemented under the Obama administration.
The president’s fluid deliberation has prompted discordant views within the administration. One source expressed confidence that Trump would announce his decision to pull out as soon as tomorrow. Another said it’s not a done deal.
Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, said he’s "cautiously optimistic" that the president will end U.S. membership in the deal. But he also gave voice to the risks of predicting Trump’s actions.
"It ain’t over till it’s over," Pyle said.
"It’s rather straightforward," he added. "This is an agreement that would have cemented President Obama’s climate legacy in place. I do not see a scenario where the United States can renegotiate a better position."
Sources in the environmental community say European leaders are starting to get calls from the White House laying the groundwork for a U.S. exit.
And environmentalists wasted no time blasting Trump.
Many pointed out that in pulling out, the United States would join Syria and Nicaragua in being among the few countries to reject the Paris Agreement. If Trump takes the more extreme route of withdrawing from the underlying U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty that binds nations in the fight against global warming, the United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with North Korea.
"Trump makes US ‘climate pariah’ & ‘rogue nation,’" Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of The Nation, a liberal weekly magazine, tweeted.
"We’re not alone!!!," 350.org founder Bill McKibben tweeted. "If US pulls out of Paris, will join Syria, Nicaragua in the anti-physics caucus! Hey guys!"
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said pulling out of the global agreement would be a "reckless and foolish mistake" and described the Paris deal as a "triumph of American leadership."
"It’s about doing what’s best for our people at home — spurring clean energy innovation and creating millions of good-paying jobs, while protecting our children and communities from pollution. And we got the whole world to join us," she said in a statement.
Blue-state politicians and city leaders were equally outraged.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said withdrawing from the accord "would be horribly destructive for the planet, the country and this city." New Yorkers will "take matters into our own hands," he added in a tweet. "I plan to sign an executive order maintaining New York City’s commitment to the Paris Agreement."
Europeans who fought to convince Trump to remain in the deal said they would move on without the United States.
"The world can count on Europe to keep global climate leadership. Together, we will stand by Paris, will defend Paris #EUChina #ParisAgreement," tweeted European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.
Reporters Emily Holden, Niina Hiekkinen and Jean Chemnick contributed.