WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump does believe the world's climate is changing and humans bear some responsibility, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in an interview.
Amid furious worldwide criticism of Mr Trump's decision last Thursday to quit the Paris climate agreement, White House spokesmen have refused to say whether the US President even believed the climate was changing.
He had repeatedly said during last year's election campaign that climate change was a hoax.
But Ms Haley, in an interview with CNN, did not hedge.
"President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation."
He "knows that it's changing and that the US has to be responsible for it and that's what we're going to do", she said.
Ms Haley said the terms of the international agreement curbing global emissions - signed by every country but Nicaragua and Syria - were "too onerous" and placed American firms at a disadvantage.
"Just because the US got out of a club, doesn't mean we aren't going to care about the environment," said Ms Haley.
The US will "continue to be a leader in the environment", but do so "under our terms", she added.
Mr Trump's decision has left the US virtually isolated on the world stage, and his insistence that he will seek to "renegotiate" the international accord has done little to ease a wave of bitter condemnation.
Against that backdrop, a string of administration officials went on the offensive last Friday to justify the Republican President's decision to abandon the 195-nation Paris deal.
Mr Trump's top climate adviser, Mr Scott Pruitt, was indignant. He said: "The world applauded when we joined Paris. And you know why? I think they applauded because they knew it would put this country at a disadvantage."
Mr Trump himself ignored a question about climate change when asked by journalists during an unrelated event last Friday, although he did joke that last Thursday's decision had proven "controversial".
White House press secretary Sean Spicer also refused to answer repeated questions on the subject last Friday.
Later on Saturday, US Vice-President Mike Pence said remaining in the Paris accord would have proved costly to US economic growth and to the working-class Americans at the core of Mr Trump's political base.
"By withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump chose to put the forgotten men and women of America first. And he always will," Mr Pence told a political rally in Iowa.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, REUTERS