The U.K. government is seeking to convince Donald Trump to support the landmark Paris climate deal, touting the economic benefits of clean energy while steering clear of the debate about climate science, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
British government representatives stationed in Washington have been talking to officials in the U.S. president’s administration about climate policy, focusing on the jobs and growth that tackling pollution can bring to the U.S., according to an energy official who isn’t authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.
Trump has sent mixed signals about U.S. climate policies. He pledged during his campaign to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 United Nations accord on greenhouse gases and to support burning coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Since then, he told the New York Times that he was keeping an “open mind” about the deal and named Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, who supported the UN effort in Paris and said the U.S. should retain a seat at the discussions.
European leaders are looking at how to preserve the Paris framework for fighting climate change, which underpins policies across the region limiting emissions and pushing industry to move away from polluting fuels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads the Group of 20 nations this year, also is emphasizing the business benefits of turning toward renewable energy, a German official said in December.
The talks between U.K. and U.S. officials haven’t gone very far if only because Trump’s administration is so new and he hasn’t named people to serve at lower posts in the departments involved. Appointees yet to be confirmed include Scott Pruitt, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Rick Perry, who Trump appointed to the Energy Department.
The British official said Trump may be more inclined to listen to the U.K. over the European Union because he has backed the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU. Trump lauded Prime Minister Theresa May at a meeting in Washington last month and set in motion the groundwork for a trade deal between the U.S. and Britain.
May’s office at No. 10 Downing Street didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The two leaders were due to speak Tuesday on the telephone at 11:30 a.m. Washington time, according to a statement by the White House.
“The U.K. will continue working closely with the U.S. on energy and climate change issues as the world transitions to a low carbon economy,” Monika Samoraj, a spokeswoman for the U.K.’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in an e-mail Tuesday.
Businesses and environmental groups have urged May to raise the issue of climate change with Trump, and company executives have been emphasizing the job-creating opportunities that come from cutting back on pollution. The most recent figures from the U.S. Energy Department show about 600,000 Americans with jobs generating power with green technologies compared to about 150,000 working with fossil fuels.
Economic arguments may resonate with Trump, who has questioned climate science and pledged to revive the coal industry and jobs in areas where mines have closed down. Spending on clean energy in the U.S. reached $58.6 billion last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
On Monday, a group of governors that included eight Republicans released a letter to Trump saying wind and solar are crucial economic engines for impoverished rural regions. And last month, more than 600 U.S. companies including DuPont Co., Johnson & Johnson and Monsanto Co. issued a statement urging the president not to withdraw from the Paris deal, saying it will generate trillions of dollars in clean energy investments.