U.S. Still Out of Paris Climate Accord After Conflicting Reports : The Two-Way The White House has reaffirmed its position on the climate pact "unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country," after reports from AFP and the WSJ that the U.S. would stay.
NPR logo Confusion Continues: The United States' Position On The Paris Climate Agreement

Confusion Continues: The United States' Position On The Paris Climate Agreement

Updated at 11 a.m. ET Sunday

With a pair of Sunday television interviews, President Trump's administration furthered ambiguity on the United States' position with regard to the Paris climate agreement.

On CBS' Face The Nation, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked by John Dickerson if there was a chance the U.S could stay in the accord.

"I think under the right conditions, the president said he's open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue," Tillerson said.

The president's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, however, painted a much firmer picture.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, McMaster called reports that the president was reconsidering his position to pull out of the Paris agreement "false."

"The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it's a bad deal for the American people and it's a bad deal for the environment," McMaster said.

That second characterization fits with a statement the White House released on Saturday, aimed at squashing reports that seemed to indicate a willingness from the president to stay in the Paris accord.

"There has been no change in the United States' position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country," the White House said in a statement Saturday.

A few minutes later, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders followed up with this tweet: "Our position on the Paris agreement has not changed. @POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms."

It was in response to reports, in The Wall Street Journal and AFP earlier in the day, that quoted a European official who had attended an environmental summit in Montreal, Canada.

According to AFP, the European Union's top climate official, Miguel Arias Canete, said, "The U.S. has stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris Accord, but they try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement."

That new stance was reportedly vocalized by White House senior adviser Everett Eissenstat, "participants" told the WSJ.

Eissenstat, deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council, "outlined a plan to reassure partners that the U.S. would be constructive" in its efforts to fight climate change, "he did not provide clarity on the new emissions-reduction objectives," the publication said, citing an unnamed official at the Montreal meeting of environmental ministers.

He went on tell the publication "there would be a meeting on the sidelines of next week's U.N. General Assembly with American representatives 'to assess what is the real US position,' but noted 'it's a message, which is quite different to the one we heard from President Trump in the past.' "

Trump announced on June 1 the U.S. would be leaving the Paris Accord, following through on a campaign promise. In a speech delivered in the Rose Garden he said, "Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as $2.7 million lost jobs by 2025."

But he added that the U.S. would begin negotiations to possibly re-enter the Paris accord or a similar pact that, he said, would result in a better deal for American workers.

Under the terms of the agreement, he wouldn't actually be able to withdraw until November 2020.

The president is preparing to give his first-ever speech to the United Nations on Monday.

NPR's Emma Bowman contributed to this report.