By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Trump administration officials will likely meet in May to reach a final decision on whether the United States should stay in the Paris climate deal, after holding an initial meeting on Thursday at the White House, an administration source said.
The group of advisers, which includes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, was on track to make the decision before a Group of Seven summit on May 26, the source said.
President Donald Trump made canceling the Paris agreement part of his 100-day plan for energy policy. He later said he was open to staying in the pact if Washington got better terms.
Tillerson, the former head of Exxon Mobil Corp and Perry have said the country should remain in the agreement. McMaster shares that view, a source outside the administration said.
Opponents of the pact include Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of oil-producing Oklahoma, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Nearly 200 countries struck the Paris agreement to limit climate change by cutting carbon dioxide emissions and making investments in clean energy.
Many companies such as BP Plc and Microsoft Corp have urged the United States to stay in the agreement to protect their competitiveness.
In addition, a group of nine Republican lawmakers urged Trump to stick to the pact, but to weaken the U.S. pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Representative Kevin Cramer of oil-producing North Dakota and eight other Republican House of Representatives members sent a letter to Trump urging him to use the country’s “seat at the Paris table to defend and promote our commercial interest, including our manufacturing and fossil fuel sectors.”
If the United States is to stay in the 2015 agreement, Washington should present a new emissions cutting pledge that “does no harm to our economy,” said the letter from Cramer, who advised Trump on energy and climate during his presidential campaign.
Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, had pledged a 26 percent to 28 percent cut in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels, by 2025. Most scientists say the world needs to curb greenhouse gas emissions to limit the effects of climate change, including rising seas, deadly heatwaves, and severe storms and droughts.
The Republican lawmakers also said Washington should retain its seat on the Green Climate Fund, which aims to tackle climate change in poor countries, but not make additional transfers to it. Obama pledged $3 billion to the fund in 2014, and gave $1 billion to it, with the last $500 million payment coming in his last days as president.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)