Republican politicians and conservative activists are making a last-ditch effort to convince President Donald Trump to keep his campaign promise and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which aims to fight the man-invented global warming.
The anti-Paris crowd wants Trump to ignore the so-called “swamp” of D.C., claiming that staying in the United Nations agreement could undermine the president’s plan to roll back Obama-era energy and environment regulations.
“On one side are his friends and allies,” Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist, told media.
“On the other are people like France’s prime minister, various environmental groups, and the State Department.”
“That should clarify on which side the president should be,” McKenna said.
The American Energy Alliance (AEA), which endorsed Trump in the 2016 election, launched an online petition urging the president to withdraw from Paris. AEA said that staying in Paris would put “America last.”
“President Trump has promised to represent the best interests of the American people; those interests entail a withdrawal of the United States from the pact signed onto by the previous administration,” AEA President Tom Pyle said in a statement. Pyle headed Trump’s transition team for the Energy Department.
Ten Republican state attorneys general sent a letter to Trump presenting the legal risks of staying in the Paris Agreement, which the Obama administration joined in 2016.
“Advocates of the Clean Power Plan could argue that the United States’ continued commitment to the Paris Agreement makes any effort to revise or rescind the Clean Power Plan arbitrary and capricious,” reads the letter from Republican attorney generals, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
“Again, while we do not believe this argument has any merit, it is nevertheless an unnecessary risk of remaining in the Paris Agreement,” Morrisey and his colleagues wrote.
A group of 22 Republican senators added to calls for Trump to ditch the Paris Agreement, sending a letter to the president Thursday. The senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, argued that the Paris Agreement gives environmentalists legal tools to stymie Trump’s agenda.
“It is clear that those advocating for greenhouse gas regulations will use the Paris Agreement as a legal defense against your actions to rescind the Clean Power Plan if you decide to remain in the Paris Agreement. This is why it is so important for you to make a clean exit from the Agreement,” reads the letter from senators.
The Paris Agreement went into effect in 2016. It contains some legally-binding obligations, but pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not legally binding. Opponents of the agreement say that staying in the agreement can endanger Trump’s agenda, despite its “non-binding” nature.
A recent United Nations report claimed that the Paris Agreement “enables litigants to construe governments’ commitments and actions as being adequate or inadequate.” That poses a legal risk to Trump’s agenda.
But will Republican calls for withdrawal be enough to convince Trump to keep his promise?
The White House is split on the issue, but close advisors Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Gary Kohn favor staying in the Paris Agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favor staying in the agreement.
Pro-Paris Trump administration officials have been backed by almost all Democrats and multinational corporations — including major oil companies and at least one coal company.
Some Republican lawmakers have joined them. Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas are among those who say the U.S. should stick with the deal.
“You know, I didn’t like the way that President Obama got into that, but as I think one of my colleagues has pointed out it doesn’t cost us any money, and it doesn’t obligate us to do anything,” Cornyn told Politico Wednesday.
“So it’s more an appearances issue.”
Trump’s also been pressured by European leaders who don’t want the Paris Agreement to fall apart. Kohn told reporters Wednesday evening that Trump “knows that Paris has important meaning to many of the European leaders. And he wants to clearly hear what the European leaders have to say.”
Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron pressured Trump on global warming, including to stay in the Paris Agreement, while he made his first foreign trip. Trump is expected to issue a decision after returning from the G7 conference this week.
Trump promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement while on the campaign trail, but since taking office a whole host of interest groups have petitioned the president to go back on his promise and remain party to Paris.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has been one of the most vocal opponents of the deal, launching an ad campaign and petition to hold Trump to his campaign promise.
CEI senior fellows Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis published a paper early May calling on Trump to submit the Paris Agreement to the Senate for approval as required by the U.S. Constitution.
The Obama administration argued that the Paris Agreement did not need Senate approval because it was an extension of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was ratified in the 1990s.
Horner and Lewis argued Paris meets the criteria laid out by the State Department for what constitutes a treaty needing Senate approval. Not getting Senate approval, they said, would set a dangerous precedent.
“The Agreement endangers America’s capacity for self-government,” their paper reads.
“It empowers one administration to make legislative commitments for decades to come, without congressional authorization, and regardless of the outcome of future elections.”