A White House divided: Climate change decision reveals splits

Washington – There was applause in the White House Rose Garden when President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of the Paris climate change accord, but there were notable absences in the clapping crowd.

In a White House riven by internal strife, both personal and political, Trump’s decision to join only Nicaragua and Syria in rejecting the historic climate change deal appears to have deepened those divisions.

Here’s a look at the opinions of Trump’s top aides on the issue:

Ivanka: Daddy’s girl snubbed

It is unusual for Trump’s daughter Ivanka not to be at her father’s side on such momentous occasions, but the 35-year-old businesswoman was nowhere to be seen.

She had been viewed by environmental activists as a conduit to help her father understand the pressing issue of man-made climate change and its potentially catastrophic effects.

After her billionaire property developer father was elected, Ivanka arranged a meeting between him and former vice president Al Gore, who has long been a vocal proponent of the dangers of a warming planet. She has also met with Hollywood A-lister and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.

She told an interviewer in April that she does not hold back when she has a difference with her father.

“Where I disagree with my father, he knows it. And I express myself with total candour,” she said.

The day after Trump announced he was pulling out of the 2015 climate deal, many analysts were asking what her real influence over her father might be.

Jared Kushner: the absent son-in-law

Hardline conservatives in the White House have long seen Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner – also a real estate developer – as “New York progressives” trying to bend the volatile president to their way of thinking.

But Kushner too was absent from the Rose Garden announcement, and even before that many had been questioning his influence as Trump’s trusted right-hand man. Few were actually clear on his position on climate change, given how rarely he makes public pronouncements.

Rex Tillerson: the former oil boss

Another notable absentee was the taciturn Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil. He had reportedly favoured staying within the Paris accords, in line with many business leaders.

“It’s important that the US maintains its seat at the table about how to address the threat of climate change, which does require a global response,” he said during his confirmation hearings.

Visibly ill at ease the day after Trump’s announcement, he insisted the United States remained committed to cutting its carbon emissions, either with or without the Paris pact.

Steve Bannon: triumphant

Just as many were saying that he had been sidelined within the administration, Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart chief and champion of Trump’s “America first” policy, was grinning widely in the Rose Garden.

Bannon, a climate-change sceptic, pleaded with Trump to withdraw from the Paris accord. He argued that the Republican president should not break his campaign promises to his base if he is to have a chance of being re-elected in 2020.

Scott Pruitt, hero for climate sceptics

Stepping onto the Rose Garden podium after Trump spoke, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the event showed the president’s “unflinching commitment to put the American people first.”

An avowed foe of both Democrats and environmentalists, who was best known for suing the EPA as Oklahoma’s attorney general before being appointed its director, Pruitt praised his boss’s “fortitude, courage and steadfastness as you serve and lead the American people.”

By Elodie Cuzin