Tillerson gives nod to climate change action at Arctic meet
ALASKA: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an agreement recognising the Paris climate accord at a meeting of Arctic nations in Alaska on Thursday, but said President Donald Trump is not rushing to decide whether to leave or weaken US commitments to the pact.
Mr Trump's efforts to dilute US climate policies have made the country an outlier on the issue and put Mr Tillerson in an awkward position at a meeting of the Arctic Council, which meets every two years to tackle climate change and other problems facing the North.
The Arctic agreement Mr Tillerson signed with foreign ministers from the other seven nations of the council - including Russia, Canada and Norway - made only a passing reference to the Paris pact.
Still, Mr Tillerson's signing surprised a source close to the State Department.
"We had heard... that there would likely be a significant US effort to redline or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr Tillerson came around to the agreement after hours of debate following a dinner the council members ate together on Wednesday night, Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told Reuters.
The ministers stressed to Mr Tillerson the business benefits, as well as the advantages to the environment and Arctic natives of taking action on climate, Mr Samuelsen said.
Mr Tillerson, a former chief executive officer of ExxonMobil, is one of Mr Trump's advisers who supports staying in the agreement.
"He was happy about it. He seemed to be satisfied. We all were, because it is a big step," Mr Samuelsen said.
It was unclear how much the Arctic agreement will influence Mr Trump.
He is expected to make a decision on Paris after a Group of Seven summit later this month.
The council also signed an agreement on sharing science and data on the Arctic, an effort led by Russia and the US, and addressed Arctic search and rescue and communications. - REUTERS