The Trump administration wants the United Nations to know that the president really, truly meant it when he said that America would be exiting the Paris climate agreement back in June. But the White House would also like the international community to know that the United States reserves the right to change its mind on that subject — and would still like a seat at the table at all international climate talks, regardless.
Under the terms of the Paris deal, the U.S. can’t actually, formally notify the U.N. that it is withdrawing until 2019. And Donald Trump already made his administration’s informal intentions perfectly clear weeks ago. But the American government delivered an official written notice of its intention to exit the agreement to the U.N. on Friday anyway.
Ironically, that document does less to reiterate America’s intransigent opposition to the deal than to signal the administration’s openness to changing course.
“As the President indicated in his June 1 announcement and subsequently, he is open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the US can identify terms that are more favorable to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers,” the letter from the State Department said. The Paris Agreement is nonbinding, and the U.S. can alter its own carbon-emissions targets at will. So Trump can identify “terms that are more favorable” to the United States whenever he wants to. And that option, apparently, remains on the table.
The letter also says that the U.S. will participate in upcoming international climate-change negotiations, including those aimed at implementing the Paris deal, so as “to protect U.S. interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration.”
The earliest that the United States can officially exit the agreement is November 4, 2020 — the day after our nation’s next presidential election. Should Trump lose the Oval Office, his successor could rejoin the agreement.
Here’s hoping the debate moderators find time to ask a question about climate change, next time around.