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As the White House Waffles, the World Moves Forward With the Paris Agreement

Climate negotiations may begin in Bonn, Germany, before the United States makes a decision on the Paris Agreement.

As the Trump administration debates whether to pull out of the Paris Agreement, climate negotiators from around the globe are meeting in Bonn, Germany, this month to settle on the rules and processes that will guide climate action in participating countries.

Some within the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, believe the United States should remain committed to the agreement, if only to have more influence over these very negotiations. In Bonn, climate leaders will hammer out the details of the “rulebook” for the agreement, which will lay out its implementation, ramp up climate commitments, and account for climate finance.

“Obviously it would be ideal, and we would prefer, if the United States stays in the agreement and helps the world constructively to develop the rules,” Paula Caballero, the global director of the World Resources Institute’s climate program said in a press call on Wednesday. Caballero added that, while it would be a “grave mistake” for the U.S. to abandon the agreement—one that she said could harm the nation’s economy, international standing, and security—the negotiations and broader climate action will move forward with or without U.S. participation.

Addressing reporters during Wednesday’s press call, the World Resources Institute’s finance center’s Joe Thwaites added that, whatever action the White House takes on the Paris Agreement, the U.S. is “already doing a lot to undermine its credibility and influence around the world.” This week’s bipartisan budget deal from Congress, for example, contains no funding for the Green Climate Fund, a $100 billion sum that would be distributed to developing nations to fund projects aimed at addressing climate change. Though the U.S. pledged to contribute $3 billion to the fund in 2014—more than any other country—to date, it has only made good on about one-third of that pledge.

Ultimately, the White House’s decision to stay or leave the Paris Agreement may come down to a single issue, according to the New York Times: whether or not a country’s pledged contribution can be weakened, without violating the terms of the Paris Agreement. (There are no penalties for violating the non-binding agreement—other than a hit to the violating country’s international standing.) Article 4.11 of the Paris Agreement, the provision that allows for adjustment, explicitly states that a nation may adjust its contribution “with a view to enhancing its level of ambition.”The White House is still deeply divided over the climate agreement, but President Donald Trump is expected to announce a decision within a week.