U.S. will change course on climate policy, Trump official says

(Reuters) - The United States will switch course on climate change and pull out of a global pact to cut emissions, said Myron Ebell, who headed U.S. President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team until his inauguration.

Ebell is the director of global warming and international environmental policy at the U.S. conservative think thank the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and helped guide the EPA’s transition after Trump was elected in November until he was sworn in on Jan. 20.

During his election campaign, Trump, a climate change sceptic, campaigned on a pledge to boost the U.S. oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries by slashing regulation.

He also promised to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement aimed at curbing global warming. However, Trump told the New York Times in November that he had an “open mind” on the agreement.

Trump’s administration has asked the EPA to temporarily halt all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to sources.

“The U.S. will clearly change its course on climate policy. Trump has made it clear he will withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He could do it by executive order tomorrow or he could do it as part of a larger package,” Ebell told reporters in London on Monday.

He said it was difficult to predict the timing of any action because government departments are still in transition, adding that he had not met Trump in person.

Any country wanting to pull out of the Paris Agreement after ratifying it has to wait four years.

A source on Trump’s transition team said last year there were speedier alternatives, such as sending a letter withdrawing from the 1992 international framework accord that is the parent treaty of the agreement; voiding U.S. involvement in both in a year’s time; or issuing a presidential order simply deleting the U.S. signature from the Paris accord.

Ebell said the “cleanest way” would be to withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change itself.

“Whether the U.N. secretariat wants the U.S. to continue to have a seat at the table is up to them. I don’t think Trump cares about that. The people who elected him would prefer not to have a seat at the table,” he said.

Trump appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has led 14 lawsuits against the EPA, as the agency’s administrator, although a vote on his nomination has not been scheduled.

Trump also has drawn heavily from the energy industry lobby and pro-drilling think tanks to build its landing team for the EPA, according to a list of the newly introduced 10-member team seen by Reuters on Monday.

Ebell also said he thought the political makeup of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which reviews applications for the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines, will change dramatically under Trump.

“Given the way the campaign went, I think you will see very quick executive action to expedite LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals and pipelines,” he said.