Trump admin leaves room to stay in pact

The Trump administration will signal its intent to leave the Paris climate deal today but will leave the door open to stay in if the right conditions are met, sources said.

The sources cited State Department communication from Kim Carnahan of the department's Office of Global Change that indicated the United States intends to remain engaged in the Paris process until it can officially exit in November 2020. But the memo to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will also state that the United States could reverse course if "suitable terms for reengagement" are met.

It's not clear what those would be. But sources familiar with a set of talking points that will accompany the memo say it points to steps the United States can take unilaterally, rather than a full-blown renegotiation of the Paris Agreement, as previously called for by President Trump.

While the communication from Carnahan doesn't explicitly say so, the source said talking points being circulated indicate that unilateral action would include altering the United States' nationally determined contribution to Paris. That pledge offered to cut emissions between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The idea is for the Trump administration to send the nationally determined contribution, or NDC, to the Senate, where it would likely fail. The United States could then offer a new emissions target.

Such commitments are nonbinding, though Trump has claimed otherwise. Administration officials are concerned that remaining in Paris could invite legal challenges.

There remains an opening for other nations to press the United States to remain in the agreement. The United States can't officially submit its withdrawal until Nov. 4, 2019, enabling a formal exit one year later. Today's memo merely signals that's the course the administration intends to take, but doesn't commit it to anything.

How the political landscape looks in 2019 could factor into whether Trump follows through on withdrawal, as an official exit wouldn't occur until the day after the 2020 election.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is expected to be the administration official signing the letter, according to the sources.

The memo also hints that the United States will remain actively engaged in negotiations over the next two years as parties write the "rulebook" that will govern Paris implementation.

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