President Trump’s chief official at the United Nations climate summit said Tuesday his top priority at the meeting is ensuring all nations, including large polluters such as China, play the same role in international climate change deals.
“We want to make sure that we do what we can to avoid bifurcation,” George David Banks, Trump’s special assistant for international energy and environment, told reporters in Bonn, Germany, on Tuesday, according to Climate Home News.
“Bifurcation is a major flaw in the framework convention, and we certainly don’t want to see it in the Paris agreement," he said. "So I would say that’s probably the No. 1 priority.”
Banks is referring to the structure of the underlying international deal setting the course for United Nations work on the climate.
That agreement includes different classes of countries, with major economies — such as the United States — committing to work more aggressively to address climate change than other nations.
The Paris deal does not present that format. Instead, nations agree to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as much as they determine they can.
Under the deal, the Obama administration committed to a 26-28 percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2025, while China said its emissions would peak by 2030 and begin declining thereafter.
Trump once infamously tweeted that climate change is a hoax invented by China to hurt the U.S. economy. Asked to explain that tweet on Monday, Banks said the president's concern about carbon emission goals is that they could hurt the economies of large, developed nations like the U.S. while growing economies like China continue to pollute.
Trump has pledged to pull out of the Paris deal, saying the accord’s terms are unfair to the U.S. while benefiting other nations, including China.
In Bonn, China and other “like-minded developing countries” are looking to create a tiered system for reporting their progress toward the Paris goals, according to Climate Home News.
Other governments have pushed back on that proposal. Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union climate commissioner, said Tuesday that European officials believe “we should follow what we agreed in Paris.”
“It’s very clear that there are some countries that still think that the binary approach should continue,” he said, Climate Home News reported.
“But we cannot go to the old story of the annexes. For sure this is going to be a difficult topic,” he said.