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Monday 21 October 2019

Climate not on agenda despite Higgins slight against Trump

US President Donald Trump (Brian Lawless/PA)
US President Donald Trump (Brian Lawless/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

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

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

Sources familiar with the plan for today's meeting said Mr Varadkar wants to priorities 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, the source said there is only a certain amount that can be covered in a 30-minute meeting.

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

He claimed the voluntary deal, aimed at curbing global temperature rise to under 2C, was "draconian".

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 US needs to be urged "in the strongest possible terms to reconsider 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 around 3pm today.

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

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

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

It is understood Mr Varadkar will press Mr Trump for progress on the extension of the E3 visa scheme to Irish citizens. The White House is understood to be supportive but such a move requires 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 Melania will fly from Shannon to France tomorrow for the D-Day commemorations.

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

Mr Varadkar will not travel to Doonbeg during the president's stay, but local minister Pat Breen is expected to attend a dinner tomorrow night.

Irish Independent

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