The Energy 202: Macron tried to soften Trump's stance on climate change. Others have failed.

Monday , July 17, 2017 - 7:49 AM

Dino Grandoni

(c) 2017, The Washington Post.

We’ve seen this movie before: A charismatic figure chats with President Donald Trump about climate change. He or she presses Trump on the necessity of the United States staying in the Paris Climate Accord. At first, Trump hints that he could be swayed to change his stance. But later, Trump does what he was going to do all along.

Despite climate change not being an official topic on the agenda of Trump’s visit to Paris last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that the two leaders discussed the issue, and that Macron may have softened his U.S. counterpart’s stance on the climate accord that was negotiated in that city and that Trump announced the United States would leave last month.

“Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the reason for my position, notably the link between climate change and terrorism,” Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche, a weekly newspaper in France, according to a translation by the Associated Press.

Macron continued: “He said he would try to find a solution in the coming months. We spoke in detail about what could allow him to return to the Paris deal.”

“Yeah, I mean, something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,” Trump said himself at a joint news conference with Macron. “We’ll see what happens.”

A forewarning to the Frenchman: Others have tried to persuade Trump on the dangers of leaving the Paris agreement - and failed.

Recall: Back in December, the foremost climate activist in the United States, Al Gore, ascended the golden elevator at Trump Tower at daughter Ivanka Trump’s request to discuss climate change with the president-elect.

When the former vice president returned to ground level, he teased reporters: “I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground,” Gore said. He added: “I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”

But later that same week, Trump announced that he would nominate Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general said the debate on climate change is “far from settled,” to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In May, Elon Musk, the charming Tony Stark-like co-founder of Tesla and SolarCity, similarly sounded a hopeful note about the prospect of U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement after speaking with Trump.

But Musk too was unable to persuade the president. By June, Trump announced the United States would pull out of the agreement. Musk responded by quitting Trump’s business advisory council in protest.

What’s going on: As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote last December, Trump “tells whoever is listening to him exactly what that person wants to hear” - even if those people, for example, are pointing nuclear weapons at each other. Back then, the president-elect told the prime minister of Pakistan that he was “doing amazing work which is visible in every way” even while members of Trump’s transition team had told journalists in India that Trump wanted to declare Pakistan a “terror state.”

Other European officials who spoke with Sophie Yeo for The Post also are pretty pessimistic after Trump’s visit to France:

- Norway’s minister of climate and environment Vidar Helgesen said: “Until further advice or interpretation is given from Washington, I wouldn’t see this as differing from that slight opening he gave when announcing withdrawal.”

- And U.K. Labour Party’s shadow minister for international climate change Barry Gardiner said: “Yes, ‘something could happen‘! The American president could come to his senses and realize that he has just thrown away the opportunity for the U.S.A. to lead the technological revolution that is about to usher in a zero-carbon economy.”

Macron likely knows not to take Trump at his word when Trump suggest he says he wants to “find a solution” to the issues surrounding the Paris agreement. Trump has already solved what he saw as a “bad deal” by abandoning it. As White House counselor Kellyanne Conway put it at the time, “he’s stayed where he’s always been, and not for a lack of trying by those who have an opposite opinion.”

But Macron, like so many others who see the Paris agreement as necessary to keeping the planet from overcooking, likely believes any crack of light he sees in the door Trump slammed on the deal is worth trying to crowbar open.

energy-policy

Keywords: paris accord, trump paris macron, macron paris accord, climate change, paris climate change agreement, rick perry, perry electric grid, becerra exxonmobil, energy department