US to stay in climate talks with no decision yet on Paris pact pullout
The US will continue attending United Nations climate change meetings, even as President Donald Trump considers pulling America out of a global emissions-cutting deal, officials said.
While US representatives are in Bonn, Germany, next week for the UN talks, Mr Trump's advisers will meet on Tuesday to discuss the global pact known as the Paris agreement.
The conflicting signals suggest the administration is trying to keep its options open while Mr Trump decides whether to withdraw, a move the international community would strongly oppose.
Though Mr Trump's inclination has been to leave the agreement, he has allowed his daughter, White House adviser Ivanka Trump, to set up an extensive review process, a senior administration official said.
The goal is to ensure Mr Trump receives information from both government experts and the private sector before making a decision.
Ivanka Trump will hold a separate meeting on Tuesday with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt, the official said.
Mr Pruitt is a chief proponent of leaving the deal and has questioned the science which says humans are contributing to global warming.
The decision to participate in next week's UN climate talks should not be construed as a sign that Mr Trump has decided to stay in the Paris pact, a State Department official added.
On the contrary, the US will be sending a "much smaller" delegation than it has in years past, the official said.
Under the Paris deal, brokered by former US president Barack Obama and world leaders in 2015, nations agreed to non-binding pledges to cap or reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The pact helped solidify a global consensus about addressing climate change which environmental groups worry may be undermined if the world's largest economy withdraws.
"If the US pulls out, it will be a pariah," said Andrew Light, a climate adviser at the World Resources Institute. "It will be on the sidelines, and that's going to hurt American businesses."
Mr Trump, as a candidate, threatened to "cancel" the deal, but since taking office has said he is studying it and plans a final decision soon.
US officials say the timeline is being driven by the Group of 7 summit, which Mr Trump will attend late this month in Italy.
Mr Trump needs to announce a decision before that summit so that leaders can determine whether and how to address climate change issues during the G-7.
The State Department official said the US is focused on ensuring that no decisions are made in Bonn next week "that would prejudice our future policy", undermine competitiveness for American businesses or restrict US economic growth.
The US delegation will be led by Trigg Talley, deputy special envoy for climate change. The Trump administration has left the special envoy role vacant after the official who held the position in the Obama administration departed.
Even if Mr Trump announces his intention to withdraw, the lengthy divorce process and other stipulations in the deal mean that the US would remain in the pact at least until November 2020 - around the same date as the next US presidential election.