President Trump is running out of time to make good on his promise to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate policy obligations, and the delay is largely due to many different interests imploring him to back away from his campaign pledges.
As Trump embarks on an ambitious eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, the pressure is only growing on him to keep the U.S. committed to the Paris deal. However, Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Christopher C. Horner, who served on Trump’s transition landing team at the Environmental Protection Agency, says all Trump needs to do is make good on his word.
“We have to go back to the campaign and remember that a decision was made and it was to get out,” said Horner. “He gave reasons why. He said this would give others control over our energy use, how much we could use the things that are reliable and affordable, as well as the massive wealth transfer. He made the decision.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute released an advertisement last month urging Trump to stay true to those campaign promises.
What has changed? Horner says a lot of different interests are pushing him to accept the status quo.
“The brakes were put on it because different influences came into play. There were what I’ll call swamp considerations, which were not obviously considerations in the campaign. In fact, he ran against the swamp. Once he got here, those interests are considerable,” said Horner.
Horner says there is a long list of people and interests looking to pressure Trump to keep the U.S. in the agreement.
“(There are) tremendous business lobbies, tremendous resistance among (the government) holdovers. I could tell you blow by blow about a lot of these officials as well as some Trump appointees. But as you also know, some family members are feeling and exerting what we’ll call Manhattan social pressures to not have to defend keeping this promise,” said Horner.
Some businesses and industries are at the forefront of protesting climate-inspired restrictions, but Horner says much of big business is on board with the climate agenda for multiple reasons. He says a lot of big companies are eager for the federal subsidies that come with compliance with the Paris accords.
“The reason is simple. When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you’re guaranteed Paul’s enthusiastic support and sometimes it was Paul’s idea. So you’ve got this base of industry support, the ones who would benefit,” said Horner.
He says those same businesses also see more restrictive policies as an advantage against the competition.
“They love instituting policies that are barriers to entry to new participants or that smaller competitors can’t handle as well. Some businesses were publicly saying in news reports that, ‘We’ve planned for this so we need this to happen,’” said Horner.
Even among Trump’s top diplomats, there is deep division on the issue.
“The U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, is reportedly very strong on this, even though, as I’ve said before, State will do what’s in the State Department’s interest and (withdrawing from the accords) makes Rex Tillerson’s life more difficult and not easier,” said Horner.
Horner also expects Trump’s time in Europe to be one long lobbying effort to keep the U.S. in the agreement.
“The Group of Seven, the leading economic nations who want – as a State Department cable that I found in litigation shows – they want us to share the pain, to relieve the burden of our competition of not having this agenda saddle our economy,” said Horner.
Published reports suggest multiple deadlines to make a decision on U.S. involvement in the accords have come and gone. He says that’s largely because Trump is trying to resist the tide aligned against his instincts.
“We’ve got it on pretty good authority what the president still thinks. He wants out and wonders aloud why he can’t just keep his promise. He’s surrounded by influencers saying, ‘You can’t do it for the following reasons.’ But some people are saying, ‘You have to (withdraw) for these reasons, the same reasons you said you would,” said Horner.
If Trump relents, Horner says President Obama’s promise that our electricity rates will “necessarily skyrocket” will come true and the cost of everything related to energy costs will also shoot up.
“The price will go up, leaving you with less disposable income and a less resilient lifestyle, less healthy because you’re less wealthy. There’ll be more hypothermia, more of seniors and the vulnerable dying from energy poverty. That’s what it’s going to mean for you,” said Horner.
Horner fears that if Trump was going to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement, he would have done so already. However, he is not giving up hope given Trump’s adamant campaign promises.
If Trump doesn’t make good on that vow, Horner says it will be a strong example of how difficult it is to reverse the tides in Washington.
“It means the swamp isn’t as easily defeated as a lot of people hoped,” said Horner. “This is really, so far, the ultimate test of his battle against the swamp.”