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White House Re-Affirms Intent To Leave Paris Climate Treaty


At the U.N. General Assembly in New York this morning, President Trump's top economic adviser met with international leaders to discuss climate change. Gary Cohn reportedly told people at the meeting that the U.S. still plans to withdraw from the largest global climate agreement in history.

Paula Caballero is the climate program director at the World Resources Institute and joins us now from U.N. headquarters in New York. Welcome.

PAULA CABALLERO: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: There were some reports over the weekend that the U.S. might stay in the Paris climate agreement. Based on what took place this morning, it sounds like that is not the case. What can you tell us?

CABALLERO: Look; I can tell you what I think is clear from since November. We're getting very mixed signals from this administration on climate change and on many other issues. It's also very well known that there are diversities of views even within the administration. So I really think that this is sort of par for the course. It's not anything to be surprised about.

SHAPIRO: Does mixed signals suggest that there is an opening for the U.S. to stay in this deal?

CABALLERO: Well, the way I read it is the fact that they're these ongoing conversations, the fact that they are engaging. And I think that's a positive sign. I think that we're trying to read too much in terms of trying to find an absolute certainty. And I actually - and I think that this is a key message I would like to share with you. I think we have to stop trying to find the definitive answer of exactly how this will play out because the more we press for a definitive answer, the more we force the administration to come out with positions strongly reaffirming what they've said at the beginning.

SHAPIRO: When President Trump announced back in June that he planned to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, he said the U.S. would try to negotiate better terms. As best you can tell, has the Trump administration started any effort to renegotiate?

CABALLERO: As best I can tell, no. World leaders have been very clear not just today and over the weekend but at the G-7, G-20 meeting the Paris is not open for renegotiation. This is a treaty that took - or an agreement that took decades to negotiate. What they are looking to is to see how they can change the terms of the pledge that the U.S. put forward, what we call in the lingo the nationally determined contribution that each country put forward.

It's possible or likely even that the U.S. is seeking to downscale their level of ambition, which is something that we - that I think the international community would very much lament and very - and it would really undermine U.S.'s leadership and contribution to the global agenda.

I think that for the Trump administration since November it's been a steep learning curve in terms of understanding that climate change is not a peripheral issue but just how absolutely central it is. So I do hope that as they engage more in the international arena they have a better sense of the cost, the political cost, of any kind of moves that would decisively undermine the Paris Agreement.

SHAPIRO: What's the conversation there among climate change advocates and world leaders?

CABALLERO: Well, the conversation here among really CEOs, around ministers, around even presidents that I have been at and that I've heard is about the fact that we are moving ahead regardless. And the conversations are not about Trump. The conversations are about the dynamism that there is around the private sector and what - the kind of decisions and policies that countries are putting forward that are moving into very rapid decarbonization, i.e. very low carbon emissions pathways. That's really what should be center stage, not only whether Trump says or does given things.

SHAPIRO: Paula Caballero is the climate program director at the World Resources Institute. Thanks a lot.

CABALLERO: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.