U.S. officials and outside groups pressuring President Donald Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement have a new reason for hope: His delay in deciding will allow foreign leaders and diplomats to inundate him with arguments that withdrawing could bring disastrous political consequences.
Trump will likely also hear from foreign leaders directly during the G-7 meeting on May 26-27 in Italy. The gathering will include leaders of Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada, who all support the Paris deal. And during Trump’s upcoming visit to Rome, he could get a direct appeal from the Pope Francis, who has previously called on world leaders not to abandon the agreement.
That’s in addition to a steady stream of domestic voices, including Al Gore and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who have spoken to the president about the benefits of remaining. A source close to Gore confirmed to POLITICO that the former vice president had a Tuesday phone call with Trump to discuss the climate agreement.
The fate of the 2015 agreement has become a major symbolic divide between some prominent supporters of Trump’s nationalistic, “America First” campaign agenda and others, including his daughter Ivanka, who worry about the potential international blowback.
Just last week, it seemed that momentum was building toward a withdrawal, especially after White House counsel Don McGahn raised questions about whether remaining in the deal would complicate Trump’s effort to undo the Obama administration’s environmental rules.
But then came Trump’s decision this week to push his final verdict until after the G-7 meeting.
One U.S. official said Trump is expected to receive a “fact check” from the international community in the coming days. And diplomats from the U.S., Germany, France and the European Commission have all reached out to the administration in recent weeks, sources told POLITICO.
One European Union diplomat pressed the anti-withdrawal argument on Tuesday during a United Nations Security Council meeting that included U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Trump’s policy decisions have sometimes been influenced by conversations with foreign leaders. For example, Trump has said a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped changed his mind about immediately withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trudeau made the call after White House officials urged the prime minister’s staff to have him contact Trump, Canada’s National Post reported this week.
At the G-7 meeting, Trudeau is expected to pitch Trump on staying in the Paris climate deal.
Still, the delay could cut both ways by giving opponents of the Paris agreement, including chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, more time to influence Trump.
“The simple reality remains and is inescapable: The president made an explicit promise, no one wants U.N. bureaucrats involved in energy decisions in this nation, and the State Department is hopelessly compromised on this,” said Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna, a vocal critic of the agreement. “Paris is a corpse; more time is only going to make it smell worse.”
McKenna added that the appeals of environmental groups and Democratic politicians will do little to sway Trump.
But other opponents of the Paris deal worried that the delay could give supporters of the accord time to mobilize.
“I think the remain crowd benefits from a delay because it gives them all time to lobby the president,” said American Energy Alliance President Tom Pyle.
Defenders of the pact, which won the backing of 195 nations, remain hopeful.
“I think it’s an encouraging sign,” Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told POLITICO. “It also means there will be more opportunities for the president to get input.”
Noting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for keeping a seat at the table in international climate talks, Cardin argued that “it’s good news for staying in Paris” if the State Department, which will probably coordinate much of the U.S. activity during the G-7, becomes more involved in the decision.
“There is counter-pressure at the White House — plus a lot of outside interest,” Cardin added. “So I think that’s good news.”
Nick Juliano contributed to this report.