A group of 22 Republican senators signed a letter urging President Trump to make a “clean break” from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The letter, dated May 25, commends Trump for signing 14 executive orders to roll back regulations established under the Obama administration. It singles out the “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” order for beginning the process of dismantling former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations.
But the many high-profile Republican leaders — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe — argue that remaining in the Paris Agreement would interfere with rolling back the country’s “regulatory burdens.”
“Because of existing provisions within the Clean Air Act and others embedded in the Paris Agreement, remaining in it would subject the United States to significant litigation risk that could upend your Administration’s ability to fulfill its goal of rescinding the Clean Power Plan. Accordingly, we strongly encourage you to make a clean break from the Paris Agreement,” the letter reads.
More than 195 countries have signed the landmark international treaty, pledging to reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to keep the average global temperature increase to below 2°C.
The Republican senators argue that environmentalists will try to use the Paris Agreement as a “legal defense” against Trump’s efforts to rescind the Clean Power Plan. They say the international accord will only embolden those already citing Section 115 of the Clean Air Act, which is concerned with international air pollution, to advocate for greenhouse gas regulations.
Trump, who has described himself as “not a huge believer in the global warming phenomenon,” vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement while campaigning but has softened his tone since Inauguration Day.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump plans to decide after his current international trip, which includes his first meeting with leaders from the Group of Seven in Italy. In their meeting at the Vatican, Pope Francis presented Trump with a copy of his landmark encyclical calling for international cooperation to fight global warming.
In the GOP letter, the senators acknowledge that Trump’s inner circle is divided on whether the United States should exit the Paris Agreement. According to various reports, Ivanka Trump (his daughter and assistant), Jared Kushner (his son-in-law and senior adviser) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson want the U.S. to remain. On the other hand, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt have been outspoken in their opinion that the U.S. should back out of the agreement.
“We understand that some officials inside your Administration want to remain in the Paris Agreement to keep a seat at the table so that the U.S. continues to have a voice in future discussions. Fortunately, a clean exit from the Paris Agreement will not take this away,” the letter reads.
The signatories point out that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 1992 reserves a permanent spot every year at the Conferences of Parties (COP). These are annual formal meetings in which diplomats and world leaders assess progress on climate change and discuss possible solutions.
“Again, we applaud you on your ongoing efforts to reduce overregulation in America,” the letter concludes. “To continue on this path, we urge you to make a clean exit from the Paris Agreement so that your Administration can follow through on its commitment to rescind the Clean Power Plan.”
On Wednesday, Democratic senators — including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer — held a press conference urging Trump to stay in the climate accord.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 24, 2017
Many domestic and international scientific associations have issued statements affirming that scientific evidence shows that the global climate is changing as a result of human activities and that it is a major danger to society.
The American Physical Society, for instance, released a statement saying the evidence behind climate change is “incontrovertible.”
“Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.”
Here is a complete list of the Republican senators who signed off on letter to Trump:
• James M. Inhofe
• John Barrasso
• Mitch McConnell
• John Cornyn
• Roy Blunt
• Roger Wicker
• Michael B. Enzi
• Michael D. Crapo
• Jim Risch
• Thad Cochran
• M. Michael Rounds
• Rand Paul
• John Boozman
• Richard C. Shelby
• Luther Strange
• Orrin G. Hatch
• Mike Lee
• Ted Cruz
• David Perdue
• Thom Tillis
• Tim Scott
• Pat Roberts
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