MONTREAL • The White House has pushed back at a European suggestion that it was softening its stance on the Paris climate accord, insisting that Washington will withdraw from the agreement unless it can re-enter on more favourable terms.
The remark came as environment ministers from some 30 countries gathered in Montreal, Canada, seeking headway on the Paris climate accord, which US President Donald Trump had pulled out of in June.
At the summit, which was attended by a US observer, the US "stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris Accord, but they (will) try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement," the European Union's top climate official Miguel Arias Canete said.
Mr Canete said there would be a meeting on the sidelines of this week's UN General Assembly with American representatives "to assess what is the real US position", noting "it's a message which is quite different to the one we heard from President Trump in the past".
The US observer was not immediately available for comment and the White House insisted the US would withdraw from the Paris climate accord without more favourable terms. "There has been no change in the US' position on the Paris agreement," White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an e-mail over the weekend.
"As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favourable to our country," she said.
There has been no change in the US' 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 favourable to our country.
WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS
Called by Canada, China and the EU, the summit took place 30 years to the day after the signing of the Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer - which Canada's environment minister hailed as a multilateral "success story" by governments, non-governmental organisations and ordinary citizens jointly tackling a major global threat.
The summit in Montreal was attended by more than half the Group of 20 members as well as some of the nations most vulnerable to climate change - from the low-lying Marshall Islands and Maldives to impoverished Mali and Ethiopia.
"Changes are real, extreme weather events are more frequent, more powerful and more distressful," Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told the gathering, pointing at the devastation wrought by mega-storms such as Harvey and Irma, which many climate scientists believe are boosted by global warming.
Nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris in December 2015 to curb carbon dioxide emissions, with the aim of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 deg C by 2050, compared with pre-industrial levels.
When Mr Trump decided in June to withdraw, Canada, China and the EU immediately reaffirmed their respective commitments to the pact, which the G-20 declared "irreversible" the following month.
China - the world's largest car market - brings to the table a potentially major advance in transportation after announcing its intention to ban petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars, after decisions by France and Britain to outlaw their sale from 2040.
The EU - which is targeting a 40 per cent cut to its emissions by 2030 - will also shortly put forward a proposal to member states on slashing carbon emissions in the transportation sector, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said this week.