As President Trump’s advisers wage an internal battle over the fate of former President Barack Obama’s climate change pact, the White House said Tuesday that Mr. Trump has postponed a decision on whether to withdraw the U.S. from the international accord until he returns from his first foreign trip this month.
Mr. Trump had been expected to announce his intentions before traveling to the Group of Seven summit, which will be held on the Italian island of Sicily on May 26-27 with foreign heads of government who support the climate agreement.
The president had promised during the campaign to cancel Washington’s participation in the deal, saying it would be harmful to the U.S. economy.
But White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who started his daily press briefing by emphasizing Mr. Trump’s push to reassert America’s “leadership on the world stage,” said the president will wait until after the G-7 summit to decide.
“I think it’s simply a sign that the president wants to continue to meet with his team,” Mr. Spicer said.
As recently as April 29, at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, marking his 100th day in office, Mr. Trump had promised to make a “big decision” on the climate change agreement over the next two weeks.
Mr. Obama, speaking in Milan, Italy, said Tuesday that he is confident the U.S. will not pull out of the Paris agreement. He said the U.S. must show leadership and not “sit on the sidelines.”
“During the course of my presidency, I made climate change a top priority because I believe that of all the challenges that we face, this is the one that will define the contours of this century more dramatically perhaps than any other,” Mr. Obama said in his first foreign speech since leaving office. “We have been able to bring our emissions down even as we grow our economy. The same is true in many parts of Europe.”
Mr. Obama said the private sector was already moving toward clean energy alternatives because of policies he put into place.
“The good news is, in part because of what we did over the last eight years, the private sector has already made a determination that the future is in clean energy. Investments are moving into clean energy,” he said.
The U.S. is one of 192 nations, plus the European Union, to sign the agreement, which is aimed at limiting global carbon emissions.
Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers, such as chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have urged him to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. Others, including daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, have counseled against it. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson also reportedly has warned that pulling out of the agreement would have diplomatic consequences with allies.
With a decision yet to be made, a White House meeting on the subject was canceled Tuesday, with aides citing scheduling complications among the agency heads.
Environmental groups said the delay was a hopeful sign for their side.
“Let’s all hope blood is thicker than water, and this postponement means Ivanka Trump and others from the reality wing in the White House are prevailing in persuading the president to keep the U.S. in the treaty and are committed to combating the threat of climate change,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook.
He said pulling out of the Paris accord would put the U.S. in the company of Syria and Nicaragua “as the only nations on earth not committed to this worldwide fight.”
In a phone conversation Monday, Mr. Trump told French President-elect Emmanuel Macron that he is pondering whether to pull out of the Paris agreement, French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud told CNN. He said Mr. Macron raised the issue.
With Mr. Trump becoming increasingly involved in international affairs, the decision has become something of a test of his “America First” campaign theme.
Dozens of conservative and free market groups sent a letter to Mr. Trump this week urging him to keep his campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement.
A withdrawal from the pact “is a key part of your plan to protect U.S. energy producers and manufacturers from regulatory warfare not just for the next four years but also for decades to come,” wrote the groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, The Heritage Foundation and Citizens Against Government Waste.
Mr. Spicer said the debate over withdrawing from the climate change pact, coupled with Mr. Trump’s recent decisions to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria and an upcoming decision about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, did not mean that the president is retreating from his campaign vows against nation-building and U.S. interventionism.
“I think that his priorities remain the same,” Mr. Spicer said. “But he’s going to do what he can to make sure that he protects the country and our people [against] threats that directly affect the United States.”
Still, as Mr. Trump prepares for a trip that will include a meeting of the European Union in Brussels and a conference of Muslim-majority nations in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Spicer said the world is eager for Mr. Trump’s leadership.
“During his many conversations with world leaders, the president has seen a great desire for America to re-engage and be a leader once again in helping solve the world’s complex problems,” he said. “And he’s already made moves, both behind the scenes with leaders and his public statements, to show them that America is reasserting its leadership on the world stage. These visits are another important part of this American resurgence.”
Mr. Spicer said Trump has been meeting with his team extensively on the climate change accord.
Even the luxury jewelry brand Tiffany & Co. made its views known on the subject Tuesday, urging Mr. Trump on social media not to withdraw from the agreement.
“Dear President Trump,” the company said in an Instagram post. “We’re still in for bold climate action. Please keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement. The disaster of climate change is too real, and the threat to our planet and to our children is too great.”