(Bloomberg) - President Donald Trump is leaning towards exiting the landmark Paris agreement on climate change, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The administration is preparing for several different outcomes and is lining up experts to speak to the media when an announcement is made, according to another person familiar with the discussions who, like the others, requested anonymity ahead of a decision.
Top administration officials are divided on what to do, with some, including Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging Trump to stay in the deal. Others, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, lead a faction that wants a U.S. exit.
There is consensus in the administration that the terms of the Paris deal must change, and it’s exploring whether that requires a full exit or a scaled-back U.S. commitment to cut emissions, according to one of the people. Trump is scheduled to meet with Tillerson at the White House on Wednesday, and the president said he’d declare an outcome soon.
“I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
Trump’s decision is highly anticipated, and leaders of the six other nations in the Group of Seven heavily lobbied him at a summit in Sicily last week to keep the U.S. in the pact. But Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and criticized the deal as “one-sided” against the U.S. White House legal advisers have warned that staying in the accord could undercut Trump’s efforts to rescind rules on power-plant emissions and methane leaks.
Axios reported earlier Wednesday that the president would exit the Paris deal, and the New York Times followed with a report that he is likely to pull the U.S. out of the accord. Several administration officials contacted by Bloomberg said that a decision hadn’t yet been made, and Trump has a record of shifting course on major decisions up until the last moment.
The move to leave would have significant environmental and diplomatic consequences. As the richest nation and the second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the U.S. is central to efforts to address global warming. The Vatican and companies as diverse as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Apple Inc. had urged the president to remain in the pact.
The Paris accord is broader than any previous climate agreement. It calls for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in hopes of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. That’s the upper limit scientists have set to keep climate change from hitting an irreversible tipping point, unleashing catastrophic floods, droughts and storms.
With an exit, Trump would make a clean break from his predecessor, Barack Obama, who made the Paris accord a top priority of his second term and pledged the U.S. would slash carbon dioxide emissions 26 percent by 2025. Withdrawal would put the U.S. in league with just two other nations -- Syria and Nicaragua -- that aren’t participating in the agreement.
Trump has already moved to dismantle programs to fight global warming. He ordered a review of fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, which along with other vehicles are the U.S.’s largest source of greenhouse gases. And he set in motion a process to scrap the Clean Power Plan, which would have required utilities to slash their carbon dioxide emissions. EPA is also moving to rescind rules to prevent methane leaks.
If he decides to leave, Trump has two options for jettisoning U.S. involvement.
The first -- withdrawing from the Paris agreement -- can’t happen immediately. Under the deal’s terms, he must wait until November 2019 to formally submit his bid to quit. It would take another year after that before the U.S. is actually out, under this process.
The other option -- exiting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -- goes beyond simply walking away from the Paris accord. The treaty, unanimously adopted by the U.S. Senate and signed by President George H.W. Bush, has been the foundation of 25 years of global climate talks. Scrapping the 1990s-era treaty would be a clear signal that this administration has no interest in cooperating with other nations on efforts to address global warming.
U.S. climate efforts won’t completely cease if Trump walks away from Paris.
States including California, New York and Massachusetts continue to move forward with aggressive policies to cut carbon emissions. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Apple, Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other companies continue their push to power their facilities with wind and solar energy. Low-carbon wind, solar and natural gas are so cheap that the Department of Energy is studying what it can do to help ailing, older coal and nuclear plants.