The United States, historically the largest contributor to global warming, will withdraw from the non-binding Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump announced Thursday. The United States formally signed onto the agreement in September 2016.
“The Paris Agreement alone won’t solve the climate crisis,” President Obama said at the time, “but it does establish an enduring framework that enables countries to ratchet down their carbon emissions over time, and to set more ambitious targets as technology advances. That means full implementation of this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and pave the way for more progress in the coming years.”
In his remarks Thursday, delivered from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said the United States will withdraw from the treaty, but will “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord, or a really, entirely new transaction.”
In advance of Trump’s speech, the president’s aides distributed talking points far and wide characterizing the climate accord as “a BAD deal for Americans” – one that would create job losses and “effectively decapitate our coal industry.”
Counterintuitively, the talking points also argue that the agreement does not go far enough to address climate change: “According to researchers at MIT, if all member nations met their obligations, the impact on the climate would be negligible. The impacts have been estimated to be likely to reduce global temperature rise by less than .2 degrees Celsius in 2100.”
Trump’s decision means the U.S. will join Nicaragua and Syria, the only other countries in the world to not sign onto the treaty. Nicaragua’s representative, Paul Oquist, protested the fact that the agreement lacked enforcement mechanisms. “Voluntary responsibility is a path to failure,” he wrote at the time. Syrian leaders, under international sanction, were unable to participate in the talks because of the ongoing civil war in their country.
Under the terms of the climate agreement, the earliest the United States would actually be able to withdraw from the treaty would be November of 2020 – specifically November 4th of that year, otherwise known as the day after the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s decision was met with wide and immediate condemnation, including from Obama. “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” he said in a rare post-presidency statement. “But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy said in a joint statement they “firmly believe” the treaty could not be renegotiated, a setiment French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated in a brief phone call with Trump. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, joining the United Nations and the European Union in condemning the move: Thursday marked “a sad day for the global community,” the EU said in a statement.
Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh – a city Trump inexplicably referenced twice in his speech (“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said) – tweeted that it’s “now up to cities to lead” on climate. “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future,” he added, also noting, “Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh.”
Tesla founder Elon Musk said he would no longer serve on the president’s business, manufacturing jobs and infrastructure advisory councils. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” he said.
And former vice president and climate change warrior Al Gore called Trump’s move “reckless and indefensible,” and said it “undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time.”