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Delegates from 30 countries met in Montreal this weekend to discuss implementation of the Paris climate accord without the U.S., following President Donald Trump's June announcement that he'll withdraw the country from the agreement. (Photo: @MinisterSilk/Twitter)

As World Moves Forward with Paris Accord, U.S. Observes From Sidelines

Some officials left a climate summit in Montreal this weekend with the impression that Trump could re-enter the Paris agreement—but critics have doubts

Julia Conley

Amid reports that the U.S. is reviewing the terms of the Paris climate agreement and examining a potential re-entry, climate advocates expressed doubts this weekend about changes in President Donald Trump's climate policy and about the White House's insistence that it will renegotiate the hard-won climate accord in any meaningful way.

Some news outlets reported Saturday that a summit in Montreal, attended by representatives from 30 countries that signed the accord—with a U.S. delegation observing from the sidelines—left officials with the impression that Trump could reconsider his decision to withdraw from the agreement.

MIguel Arias Canete, the European Union's commissioner for climate action, said that the U.S. "stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord, but they will try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement."

Ben Schreiber, senior political strategist for Friends of the Earth, stressed that any reports of real change in Trump's climate agenda are false alarms.

"This latest fire drill on the Paris agreement proves only one thing: Donald Trump can’t be trusted," said Schreiber in a statement. “Even if Trump does decide to stay in the Paris Agreement, it will not be a victory for the planet because Trump's actions have made it clear that he has no intention of doing our fair share on climate change."

The White House said on Saturday that its policy has always been that it would leave the climate accord unless its terms can be renegotiated to Trump's satisfaction. But after a years-long process of hammering out a deal to which 175 parties countries have signed on, other world leaders have rejected this possibility.

"The Paris agreement should not be renegotiated," said Xie Zhenhua, the climate representative for China at the meeting in Montreal, which was called so countries could discuss how to move forward without the U.S. Though China is one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, it has emerged as a leader in renewable energy in recent years and has been steadfast in its commitment to the Paris accord.

Since taking office, even before the withdrawal, Trump has given climate advocates and the Paris accord signatories little reason to hope that his re-negotiation of the agreement would satisfy its goal of keeping the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

He has rolled back numerous Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, including the Clean Power Plan, which would have replaced coal-fired power plants with wind and solar farms.

"Meaningful action by the U.S. would mean rapidly reducing emissions and providing significant climate finance," said Schreiber. "Trump has taken us in the opposite direction...Donald Trump continues to hold the entire world hostage on climate change."

On social media, Trump critics cast the White House's hope of changing the hard-won agreement to suit Trump's terms as out-of-touch and arrogant.

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