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US can ‘chart its own path’ on Paris climate deal

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The EU says Donald Trump’s administration can “chart its own path” on the Paris climate agreement amid speculation the US president may be persuaded that he has to ditch the landmark accord if he wants to keep promoting fossil fuels.

Mr Trump signed an executive order in March to boost coal and roll back climate policies set by his predecessor, Barack Obama, in a move critics say would make it harder for the US to meet its Paris deal commitments to cut emissions.

However, the president has yet to act on his campaign vow to “cancel” the climate pact adopted in December 2015 by virtually every country in the world, despite pressure to do so from some in his team.

The president’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, have begun to argue that legal hurdles make it difficult to stay in the accord because one clause restricts countries from weakening their domestic commitments to cut emissions, Politico has reported.

This is a reference to Article 4:11 in the agreement, which says a country “may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition”.

Those opposed to the Paris deal say this provision could be used in court by the administration’s opponents to fight Mr Trump’s efforts to reverse Mr Obama’s climate regulations.

However, the EU’s climate action and energy commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, told the FT on Wednesday the Paris agreement allowed countries a lot of latitude and it was hoped the US would find a way to stay in it.

“195 countries have signed the Paris Agreement and there will be 195 different paths to meeting the Paris goals,” he said.

“Fossil fuels will continue to play a role for many countries on the path towards decarbonisation. So there is room for a new US administration to chart its own path as well.”

Separately, a senior lawyer involved in the legal drafting of the Paris accord said it was wrong to suggest the pact prevented countries from weakening their climate commitments.

“Nothing in the agreement prohibits a party from changing its target, even after it has been submitted,” said the lawyer, who declined to be named. “While parties are encouraged to make changes in the more ambitious direction, there is no prohibition on changing in the other direction.”

The agreement aims to slow the pace of global warming by requiring countries to submit plans setting out how they aim to deal with climate change.

The proposal submitted by the Obama administration says the US will try to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2025 from what levels were in 2005.

The agreement does not contain penalties for countries that fail to meet such commitments and some members of Mr Trump’s administration, such as energy secretary, Rick Perry, have publicly urged him to “renegotiate” the accord without leaving it.

Secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, are also widely reported to believe the US should stay in the deal.

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