With top presidential aides stubbornly divided, the White House abruptly announced on Tuesday that President Donald Trump would make no decision on the United States’ future in the Paris climate change accord until June, after he returns from a meeting of the Group of 7 Western powers.
The announcement by White House press secretary Sean Spicer encouraged advocates of the landmark climate pact, who hope that Trump’s fellow heads of state can pressure the president to remain in the accord, first at a Nato summit meeting in Brussels next week and then at the G-7 meeting in Taormina, Italy.
As Trump embarks on his first foreign trip since assuming office, heads of state are expected to point out to him that withdrawing from the deal is likely to affect his standing and credibility on the world stage as he seeks to press other elements of his foreign policy agenda, such as trade and military efforts to suppress the Islamic State.
“All the European governments hope that President Trump will stay in the Paris Agreement, and the G7 can be the moment where he can measure the diplomatic cost of the pulling out,” said Laurence Tubiana, the lead French climate negotiator of the 2015 accord. “It will be a fantastic opportunity to make that case.”
The push has started. On Monday, when Trump called President-elect Emmanuel Macron of France to congratulate him on his victory, Macron told the president that enforcing and strengthening the Paris accord would be a top priority for him. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have told Trump that they value upholding the Paris deal, and Tubiana and other climate diplomats say they expect that other G7 leaders will telephone Trump to convey the same message before convening in Italy.
Opponents of remaining in the Paris pact, including the heads of conservative advocacy groups with close ties to the Trump administration, agreed that the delay could give the pact’s supporters an edge.
Trump’s senior advisers have been locked in an impasse for weeks over whether or how to follow through on their boss’s campaign pledge to pull the United States from the 195-nation accord, which was legally ratified last year.