Analysis: Is Donald Trump beginning to feel isolated on climate?

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump shake hands at the Elysee Palace in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Donald Trump meet at the Elysee Palace in Paris during the US President’s French state visit. Photo credit: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque

By Anders Lorenzen

Last week French President Emmanuel Macron, claimed that he believes he has convinced US President Donald Trump that he was wrong to quit the Paris Agreement on climate change. According to the British newspaper, The Times, Mr. Macron believes Mr. Trump has changed his mind and could take a U-turn on the decision. They report the French President as saying: “Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the sense of my approach. He told me he would try to find a solution in the coming months”. The statement came following Trump’s French state visit to Paris. The US President’s wording on the Paris Agreement was similar to those he gave during their joint press conference where he explained that he would try and find a solution on the Paris Agreement. This was then followed by a statement from entrepreneur, founder of Virgin, and climate advocate Sir Richard Branson who said that Mr. Trump regretted his bizarre move to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

Following the recent G20 summit all members, apart from the US, committed to ensuring full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, through cooperation on enhanced delivery of national climate contributions. So the argument goes that Donald Trump now finds himself and the US not only isolated on climate but also other global issues, making diplomatic cooperation so much harder.

However, Turkey later cast doubt on whether they support that G20 statement. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that as the US plans to exit the deal, it would mean that Turkey would no longer be able to ratify it. Strangely this came just a few days after they had supported the G20 statement.

But nevertheless, we may have arrived at a remarkable turnaround. One where Mr. Trump, with a rare show of pragmatism, might have weighed up his options to possibly depart from his own climate skeptic views – as well as those of his closest advisor Steve Bannon and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to stay in the Paris Agreement.

However good that sounds, it is still highly unlikely.

First of all, it is very unlikely that he would defy the promise he made to a large portion of his supporters, with which he promised to bring back coal jobs and cancel UN climate payments. He knows if he does this, he is toast. On top of this, he would anger many more in the Republican party, at a crucial time when he needs their support, with allegations of Russian electoral interference, unlikely to go away anytime soon.

It is also worth looking at Mr. Trump’s language. Quite often he says one thing and means another, only to go back and claim he never uttered the initial statement at all. But he has been very careful about how he has communicated his views on the Paris Agreement. Remember that infamous interview with the New York Times, when he said he had an open mind about it all? He fooled many of the media, commentators, campaign groups, so much so that up until a certain point many thought he was going to stay in the accord. But they were all played. Let’s also remember what he said when he announced the exit from the deal, that he would be willing to renegotiate it. If they could that would be fine, but if they couldn’t that would also be fine. What he said during the Trump/Macron press conference was very similar. He said he is looking into options about the Paris Agreement, and if he could find a solution that would be great, but if they couldn’t that would be great too. A suspiciously convenient win-win situation for the US President. Also, the topic was not even on the agenda for the press conference, it only came up as a journalist asked him about the Paris Agreement. It is important to bear in mind that Trump has not, at least yet, said that he regrets pulling out of the agreement, and he has not really offered any new views that he has not uttered before.

The last big question to ask, is whether the media and the public are about to be Trumped? Again.




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