Morning News Brief: Trump On Paris Climate Deal, U.K. Elections

Jun 1, 2017
Originally published on June 1, 2017 12:09 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So the president is leaving everyone in suspense today, going to Twitter and saying he will make an announcement today.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

That's right. The announcement has to do with his decision about the Paris climate agreement. You might remember that during the campaign, Trump made it clear that he was no fan of the international deal struck by his predecessor.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop...

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Unbelievable. And stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: This went along with another of the president's campaign promises that played well with his base.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

TRUMP: We're going to save the coal industry. We are going to save that coal industry. Believe me. We're going to save it.

MARTIN: Despite what he said on the campaign trail, the president is playing his cards close to his chest on this one, at least until later this afternoon.

INSKEEP: OK. So the first question is, will he cancel the agreement? The second one is, will it do what he promised? Will it save the coal industry and other industries? We're going to talk this through starting with NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley who's here.

Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. It seemed like the president made up his mind on the campaign trail. Unbelievable, he said of the Paris climate deal. Is there really a question about whether he will cancel it?

HORSLEY: Well, he has been getting a lot of lobbying, both from outside and inside the administration, to stay in the Paris Accords. And that includes lobbying from his own daughter Ivanka. This has been a real tug of war between the nationalists in the White House, folks like Steve Bannon, who want the president to pull out of the deal and the globalists, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who want the United States to stay in.

There were reports as early as last Friday that the decision had been made. But there were other news accounts saying, no, the president's mind was still subject to change. And there are still - supporters of the deal are still running full-page ads today imploring Trump to stay in the deal. So you know, Trump the showman knows how to build suspense, build an audience. And all this uncertainty guarantees a big tune-in for his announcement in the Rose Garden this afternoon.

INSKEEP: Yeah, it focuses all attention on him. This is reminding me of NAFTA, Scott Horsley, where word went out that the president was going to cancel NAFTA, and then he was lobbied. There was some last-minute lobbying. And that's what's happening now, right?

HORSLEY: The lobbying in that case by the leaders of Canada and Mexico - in this case, he's getting lobbying from all international quarters.

INSKEEP: OK. So suppose the president were to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. Suppose he does that, what's that look like? What are the mechanics?

HORSLEY: There are at least a couple of different exit doors he could walk through. He absolutely has the authority to pull out unilaterally from the Paris deal itself, but it's time consuming. And it wouldn't actually take effect until the day after the 2020 presidential election. If he wanted to take an express lane, he could withdraw from the underlying United Nations climate agreement. But that's a Senate-ratified treaty, and Congress would likely argue that it should have some sort of say so in that.

INSKEEP: Let's bring another voice into this conversation. NPR's Nate Rott covers energy and the environment.

Nate, good morning.

NATE ROTT, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So I'm trying to think this through. The United States has signed on to this voluntary deal to take a number of steps to reduce its carbon emissions over the coming years. The president says this costs jobs. I guess the opposite of that would be, withdrawing from the climate agreement would save jobs or create jobs. But let's fact check that a little bit. Would you actually save coal jobs, for example, by getting out of the Paris climate deal?

ROTT: Short answer, no.

INSKEEP: Thank you very much. Nate Rott...

ROTT: (Laughter) Yeah, there we go. Good to talk to you.

INSKEEP: No, let's elaborate a little bit on it.

ROTT: Now - so I mean - talking just about coal jobs, and that's what I've been mostly doing some reporting on recently, I've kind of discovered there's a big problem for coal. And that is that the coal industry is in a structural decline. And by that, I mean natural gas is cheaper. It's cleaner. Utilities across the country often prefer it to coal. On top of that, you have this massive growth in renewable energies, wind and solar, that are making big pushes. And you have growing numbers of cities and states that are committing to clean energy themselves.

Just yesterday here in California, the Senate passed a bill to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. And our governor, Jerry Brown, doubled down on the state's commitment to, quote, "stay the course," unquote, on the Paris Accord after he heard that Trump might be stepping out of it. And they actually...

INSKEEP: Did you say it's 100 percent renewable energy by the state of California by 2045? Did I hear you correctly?

ROTT: That is correct.

INSKEEP: Wow.

ROTT: And, you know, there's - obviously, that's still got some hoops to jump through. But that is kind of a good indication of where California is going, and California's not alone. There's a lot of other states that are making commitments that are similar. So it's really hard for coal to compete in this new energy marketplace, regardless of regulation or, in this case, international climate agreements.

INSKEEP: Why are so many businesses lining up to save this climate agreement? After all, it does impose some requirements on them, and they don't tend to like government requirements.

ROTT: Well, yeah. So what you're referring to, I think, is what we've heard from a lot of companies in the tech industry, food industry, manufacturing - I mean, on and on - that have publicly announced their support of this agreement. I think there's a lot of different reasons for that, obviously. But if you want to draw a thread through all of them, I think a big one to draw is consistency. And there are two things I mean by that. There's consistency here in the U.S. Lots of these industries have been making plans under the impression that the U.S. would be part of this big climate deal. And it's not easy to change those plans overnight.

The other consistency I'm talking about is abroad. Take the auto industry. I was talking to our auto correspondent. You guys know him, Sonari Glinton, about this earlier yesterday. And he was saying, if you're a global company like Ford or Toyota, you want to be able to sell the same car here in the U.S. that you can sell in China or South Africa. So if the world is moving in one direction on something like auto emissions, as you would imagine it would under the Paris Accords, the U.S. is moving another - makes it hard for business.

HORSLEY: Even as we're talking word is coming from around the world if you're watching the news in recent hours today. China has said it's going to stand by its climate commitment. The Kremlin is saying the climate deal will be less effective without the United States. Statements are coming in.

Very, very briefly, Scott Horsley, what's it do to the U.S. standing in the world if it joins Syria and Nicaragua as the countries that aren't part of this deal?

ROTT: This would be not only an America-first move, this would be an America-going-it-alone move. This would be very much a retreat from nearly every other country on the planet that has agreed to this. There was an eye-popping quote in a Politico story yesterday that some officials have taken to calling the G7, the other G7 countries that want to stay in the deal, the G6.

INSKEEP: Oh, my.

ROTT: That's a remarkable statement about the U.S. standing in the world right.

MARTIN: But as Nate points out, California municipalities, states have already decided that this is good business. It makes good economic sense to pursue alternative energies and climate-change policies. So look to see how many more states and cities decide that they have to go it alone.

INSKEEP: NPR's Nate Rott and Scott Horsley. Thank you, gentlemen.

ROTT: You're welcome.

HORSLEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Some other news now - there's just one week to go before Britain's parliamentary election, and that race is a lot closer.

MARTIN: Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May might be having a little buyer's remorse for calling that early election. Her Conservative Party looks like it's set to lose seats. And that's coming as kind of a surprise because May thought she was going to boost her majority in Parliament. She needs strong public support, Steve, as she negotiates the particulars of how exactly the U.K. is going to leave the European Union.

INSKEEP: We're lucky that NPR's Frank Langfitt is in London covering this story. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: So polls can be wrong. They've been wrong in Britain.

LANGFITT: Indeed.

INSKEEP: They were wrong on Brexit. What is the evidence that this race is really tightening?

LANGFITT: Well, we're looking at aggregate polls, really, from April when Theresa May called this election 'cause she thought she was going to - it was going to be a landslide and it was going to be a romp for her.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

LANGFITT: The Tories - her Tory party was up 20 points. It's now - now, if you look at the average of polls - down to 9. One yesterday had it as close as 3. Just to jump in what Rachel was talking about - people do not think that they will lose seats. It's unlikely, very unlikely. But they may not make the big gains that she hoped for, which is why she called the election in the first place.

INSKEEP: Why are the Tories, as they're called, slipping?

LANGFITT: Theresa May is a big, big reason. She's not a good campaigner, Steve (laughter). And they put out - no, I mean, she...

MARTIN: That's a problem for a politician.

LANGFITT: Well, it's really a problem also when you call the election, Rachel. You're some - I mean, nobody expected this. She didn't have to do it. And what has happened recently is they put out - the Tories put out a party manifesto. And there was a big mistake in it, one that upset a lot of people. They said that in long-term care cases, in terms of people who perhaps have dementia and the government spends a lot of money to take care of them, that the government could then come back and go after their inheritance.

INSKEEP: Oh.

LANGFITT: They're - and with no cap. Well, that freaked a lot of people out. And it also showed that May, who has sort of cast herself as this strong and stable, steady hand, was not really as good on the stump and not as good in terms of strategy. So it undermined one of her big selling points.

INSKEEP: Strong and stable - is that the slogan that...

LANGFITT: Strong and stable is. And actually, Steve, it became such a robotic mantra that recently on YouTube - a bunch of people on YouTube have done a little mash-up on it. People can give it a listen now.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "STRONG AND STABLE - THERESA MAY FT. WIZ KHALIFA")

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: Strong and stable.

Strong and stable.

Strong and stable.

Yes. And...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Sounds manic and crazy.

LANGFITT: But also think about this, Rachel. If you are the prime minister and this is your mantra and it's become a punchline, that gives you a sense of why - you know, why the polls are a lot closer than they were.

INSKEEP: Can I just mention, Frank? There was a debate last night, as you know very well, and Theresa May wasn't there - strong, stable or otherwise.

LANGFITT: She - yeah. And that hurt her again as well. You know, when she called this back in April, she thought, I'm not even going to have to show up. It's going to be really easy. It's much closer now. She still didn't show up. And of course, the other candidates bashed her for it - said, how can you call an election and not show up for a debate?

INSKEEP: If she doesn't get a big win, is this going to cause trouble in negotiating Brexit?

LANGFITT: It's going to make it harder for her. She was looking for a lot - you know, a really strong majority in Parliament. And it's going to be more of a headache. It's basically not going to go the way she had hoped.

INSKEEP: NPR's strong and stable correspondent Frank Langfitt is in London. Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Steve.

INSKEEP: He's talking with us as a British election approaches. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.