White House says plan to withdraw from Paris climate accord still in place

(CNN) — A top White House adviser affirmed Monday that¬†President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord¬†after confusion arose on the issue this weekend.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, reiterated during a morning meeting with climate ministers that Trump intends to follow through with the withdrawal unless there’s a way to strike an agreement more favorable to the United States.

“Consistent with the President’s announcement in June, we are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement unless we can reengage on terms more favorable to the United States,” a White House official said Monday. “This position was made very clear during the breakfast.”

Cohn met with the climate ministers from more than a dozen large economy nations on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where climate issues are expected to arise among world leaders. The planned withdrawal has created a major rift between Trump and many US allies.

The message from Cohn came after a European diplomat told reporters over the weekend that a Trump administration envoy appeared to signal a softening stance during a meeting in Montreal. The White House denied there was any change in Trump’s views, and other diplomats in the meeting said the comments were misinterpreted.

“This is obviously a misunderstanding,” said German State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth, who attended the talks in Montreal. “The head of the US delegation did not imply that the US would reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

The Paris climate accord issue reappeared just as Trump makes his major diplomatic debut at the annual UN gathering in New York. The White House noted on Monday that Cohn was continuing a tradition of US-hosted climate meetings on the sidelines of the UN meetings.

“We are looking forward to continuing this conversation,” the White House official said. Energy security and efforts to reduce emissions were also discussed during the session, the official said.

In announcing a withdrawal from the Paris agreement in June, Trump maintained that he was open to renegotiating aspects of the deal as long as he believed the US was getting a fair shake.

That would likely include drastically reducing the carbon reduction agreements made during the Obama administration. The Trump administration has vowed to discard the Obama-era regulations that would make those carbon targets possible.

Once among Trump’s most trusted aides, Cohn is said to be out of favor in the White House after he openly aired his disagreements with Trump over his equivocal comments about white supremacist violence in Virginia.

During West Wing deliberations over the future of the Paris agreement this Spring, Cohn advocated for remaining in the pact while reducing the United States’ commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

Ultimately, Trump chose to trigger a withdrawal mechanism that will take more than three-and-a-half years to complete, leaving time for his aides to hammer out a plan that would alter US commitments while remaining a part of the agreement.

Cohn, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, had said a complete withdrawal would harm US negotiating power on climate issues, adding that a seat at the table was necessary to advance American interests on the issue.