- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2017

Two weeks after President Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the administration on Monday took its first concrete step toward that end by formally rejecting the agreement on the world stage.

At a meeting in Italy, environment ministers from G-7 nations released a lengthy communique on climate change, and the document included commitments from each country to meet their emissions-reduction pledges under the Paris deal. Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. initially promised to cut greenhouse gas pollution by at least 26 percent by 2025, but Mr. Trump said earlier this month that the nation will no longer pursue that goal.

Instead, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told his international colleagues that the U.S. will follow its own path outside the accord to cut emissions and promote green technology. In an addendum to the formal G-7 climate paper, Mr. Pruitt dismissed both the Paris climate deal itself and the concept of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), international bodies through which developed countries funnel money to poorer nations to help them cut their pollution.

“The United States will continue to engage with key international partners in a manner that is consistent with our domestic priorities, preserving both a strong economy and a healthy environment,” the U.S. said in its statement, which was included as a footnote in the broader climate change communique. “Accordingly, we the United States do not join those sections of the communique on climate and MDBs, reflecting our recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments.”

Mr. Pruitt spent just a portion of the day at the summit, leaving before it ended to return to Washington for Mr. Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting Monday morning.

While it will take years to completely withdraw from the deal, Monday’s statement is the first tangible sign — other than Mr. Trump’s Rose Garden announcement two weeks ago — to the rest of the world that the administration is serious about withdrawal.

The other G-7 nations doubled down on their support for the accord, saying in a communique that it remains “the primary global instrument for effectively and urgently tackling climate change and adapting to its effect.”

“We welcome the continued support that the Paris Agreement has received from other countries, and subnational and non-state actors around the world,” said ministers representing France, Britain, Japan, Canada, Italy, Germany and the European Union.

Other world leaders have reacted angrily to Mr. Trump’s decision and have said the U.S. will not be welcomed back into international climate discussions. The president said he’s open to renegotiating the Paris deal, but only if he can secure more favorable terms for America.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pruitt rejected the idea that the Paris agreement is the only way forward.

“The United States will continue to show leadership by offering action-oriented solutions to the world’s environmental challenges,” he said in a statement after returning home. “We have indicated a willingness to engage on an international stage that stands to greatly benefit from American ingenuity, innovation and advanced technologies. We have already demonstrated significant progress towards mitigating environmental problems and we will continue to develop these for the benefit of all nations.”

By leaving the deal, some specialists say that the main risk to the U.S. in the years to come is that its chief economic rival, China, could be in a better position to dominate the flourishing world of clean energy.

“As the U.S. withdrew from the Paris agreement, China has stepped up to play a proactive role in global climate diplomacy. This should give Beijing an opportunity to advance a China-driven agenda in multilateral negotiations over global climate governance, and to grow its own green energy industry,” said Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, co-director of the Global Asia Studies program at Pace University in New York.

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