Wednesday 11 December 2019

Climate change is not on the agenda for meeting with Leo

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Climate change is not on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's agenda for his meeting with US President Donald Trump today, the Herald understands.

The environment has not made the shortlist of topics to be discussed despite our own President, Michael D Higgins, launching an attack on the White House's climate policy on the eve of the visit.

Sources familiar with the plan for the meeting said Mr Varadkar wants to prioritise bilateral relations, economic partnerships and the need to support the undocumented Irish.

He wants to highlight the contribution made by Irish people in the United States and also remind Mr Trump of the important role previous US administrations have played in ensuring stability in Northern Ireland.

Asked whether climate change would feature as a result of Mr Higgins's intervention, the source said there is only a certain amount that can be covered in a 30 minute meeting.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Higgins accused the US of engaging in "regressive and pernicious" decision-making around climate action.

This week marks one year since Mr Trump pulled his country out of the historical Paris climate change agreement.

He claimed the voluntary deal, aimed at curbing global temperature rise to under 2C, was "draconian" and would cause a "very diminished quality of life" for Americans.

Mr Higgins said the EU must now plan for the full decarbonisation of economics by 2050 and encourage the rest of the world to follow suit.


He said the USA needs to be urged "in the strongest possible terms to re-consider its regressive and pernicious decision to leave the global Paris Agreement".

The timing of the comments will be seen as a direct slight on Mr Trump, who is due to land at Shannon Airport on board Air Force One around 3pm today.

A number of Government sources described President Higgins's comments as "unhelpful" ahead of a diplomatically-fraught meeting.

The Taoiseach is scheduled to meet with President Trump in the airport before he flies by helicopter to his resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

A massive security operation is already underway at a cost of €10m to Irish taxpayers.

It is understood Mr Varadkar will press the President for progress on the extension of the E3 visa scheme to Irish citizens. The two-year renewable visa is currently only available to Australian citizens.

The White House is understood to be supportive of extending it to Irish citizens but such a move requires the unanimous approval from the US senate.

A previous attempt to gain this was scuppered by Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, who is a supporter of Mr Trump.

The President and his wife Melanie will fly from Shannon to France tomorrow for the D Day commemorations.

They will return to Doonbeg in the evening and on Friday morning Mr Trump is expected to take to the golf course. He will be accompanied for a round by a number Doonbeg regulars.

The President is expected to be given the largest room available at his Doonbeg resort, a 2,800sq ft suite.

The room is described by the hotel as "completely unique" and comes with under-floor heating, a fireplace and separate living and dining area.

And he will be able to keep an eye on Twitter and the news, with high quality bandwidth internet, wifi and a flat-screen TV.

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