President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change Thursday afternoon. He described the move as a reassertion of American sovereignty.
Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax, announced that he will start the process of removing the U.S. from the international climate accord intended to limit the increase in average global temperature to below 2°C.
“The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers — so we’re getting out,” he announced to members of his Cabinet and Congress at the White House Rose Garden.
Trump touted the decision as yet another example of carrying out his campaign promises. He said the U.S. will start negotiating with other countries to attempt to broker a deal that he considers fair.
He claimed the Paris Agreement has turned the U.S. into a laughingstock, but promised leaders of other countries won’t laugh at America anymore.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said to applause.
Trump criticized the climate accord as an example of an agreement that Washington enters that disadvantages the American people.
“I am fighting every day for the great people of this country,” he said.
Trump called the Paris Agreement a “massive redistribution” of the United States’ wealth to other countries and said the Green Climate Fund has been siphoning billions of dollars out of the U.S.
The Green Climate Fund, intended to help less-developed nations move to clean energy and adapt to climate change, has raised a total of around $10 billion from advanced economies so far, including $3 billion from the U.S. The long-term goal is for $100 billion a year from all sources by 2020.
He said this trend is resulting in fewer jobs, lower wages, shuttered factors and diminished economic production.
“As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump said.
The president said the U.S. has rarely entered deals that serve its interests, and said that many trade deals would also be renegotiated.
Trump said leaving the agreement jumpstarts the process of unlocking the nation’s abundant energy reserves, and that it’s unthinkable for an international agreement to stop the U.S. from conducting its own domestic economic affairs.
“But this is the new reality we face if we do not leave the agreement, or if we do not negotiate a far better deal,” Trump said. “These agreements only tend to become more and more ambitious over time. In other words, the Paris framework is just a starting point, as bad as it is.”
Trump was introduced by Vice President Mike Pence, who credited the president with putting American jobs first and returning attention to the forgotten men and women of the country.
“Thanks to President Donald Trump, America is back,” Pence said.
Former President Barack Obama immediately released a statement reaffirming his belief that the U.S. should be a key player in the Paris Agreement. He expressed confidence that American communities will help protect the planet for future generations — even if the current administration will not.
“I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said. “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.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto took issue with Trump’s reference to his home city.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his climate change activism, calls Trump’s action “reckless and indefensible.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown also released a statement criticizing the president.
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, released a strongly worded statement condemning Trump’s decision as “disgraceful” and his “isolationist stance” at this critical moment as “morally reprehensible.”
“By withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, the Trump administration has turned America from a global climate leader into a global climate deadbeat,” Leonard said. “The world has already resolved to act on climate, the renewable energy industry is growing exponentially, and people all over the globe are becoming part of the clean energy future. Progress will continue with or without Donald Trump, but he is making it as painful as possible for people around the world.”
World leaders piled on, criticizing Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the accord while recommitting their nations to it.
“I do respect this decision but I do think it is an actual mistake both for the U.S. and for our planet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.
While Trump’s announcement drew praise from some conservative Republicans, some in the business community expressed dismay at it.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who opened a Twitter account in 2011, posted his first message on the social media platform in response to Trump’s decision.
In a terse Twitter message, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced he was stepping down from White House advisory councils due to the president’s move.
If the U.S. actually leaves, it will join Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not participating in the Paris Agreement, one of the most important multilateral agreements in history.
Though Trump had vowed on the campaign trail to pull the U.S. from the international pledge to tackle climate change, he toned down his rhetoric after winning the presidential election.
The White House was reportedly torn on the issue: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner wanted the U.S. to stay in the agreement, but White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wanted the U.S. to leave.
The past few weeks, major U.S. businesses including Apple, Microsoft and Google have been taking out full-page advertisements in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post urging Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement so that the U.S. can manage climate risks and compete in the new clean energy economy.
Still, Trump cannot simply sign a piece of paper or make a proclamation to pull the United States from the agreement. There’s a process in place to prevent member-countries from reneging on their short-term commitments.
The news cycle was abuzz with talk about the agreement Wednesday morning following an Axios report saying Trump had decided to pull out, which should have come as no surprise to anyone following the early months of his administration. Trump has been signing a steady stream of executive orders intended to slash environmental regulations and bolster the fossil fuel industry.
Later that day, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that, based on his conversations with Trump at last week’s Group of Seven summit in Italy, Trump does not appear to understand that it would take several years to get the United States out of the international accord.
The Paris Agreement’s 28th article permits any country to submit its withdrawal three years after the agreement enters into force for that party, which for the U.S. was Nov. 4, 2016. Trump would therefore need to wait until Nov. 4, 2019, to formally request the United States removal, and it would become official on Nov. 4, 2020.
Dan Bodansky, a law professor at Arizona State University and a leading climate change expert, said another way for a president to get out of the Paris Agreement would be to withdraw from its parent agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Under Article 25 of the UNFCCC, any party can withdraw with one year’s notice. Bodansky said that it’s unclear whether the president would be able to make the decision to leave the UNFCCC unilaterally. Whereas Obama used executive authority to accept the Paris Agreement, former President George H.W. Bush ratified the UNFCCC after getting Senate approval.
“If he wanted to use what you could refer to as the ‘nuclear option,’ then pulling out of the entire thing, it would become effective a year after the U.S. gives notice. That would be the quicker approach,” Bodansky told Yahoo News.
In a legal note for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Bodansky wrote that a president could try to withdraw from the Paris Agreement outside the terms of the agreement — which would violate international law — by arguing that Obama did not have the legal authority to approve it. The international community would not recognize this decision and the U.S. would still be bound by its commitments.
The United States had a strong leadership role in negotiating the Paris Agreement in the first place. Announcements that China and the U.S. (the top two emitters of carbon dioxide) were serious about curbing their pollution ensured widespread participation in the agreement.
The U.S. withdrawal is expected to have severe diplomatic consequences. Other countries — including close allies — can be expected to accuse the United States of embracing unilateralism and they would be less inclined to hear out American interests if they cannot rely upon the U.S. to stand by its word.
Bodansky wrote that the manner of U.S. withdrawal would matter when considering the potential ramifications of the decision:
“For example, withdrawing from the UNFCCC would be even more controversial than withdrawing from only the Paris Agreement, since the UNFCCC was accepted by the United States on a bipartisan basis with the unanimous approval of the Senate, and has been the foundation of international cooperation on the climate issue since its adoption almost 25 years ago. And withdrawing in a manner that did not conform to the requirements of the Paris Agreement or the UNFCCC would damage the United States’ reputation as a law-abiding member of the international community.”
Here is Obama’s statement on Trump’s announcement in full:
A year and a half ago, the world came together in Paris around the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.
It was steady, principled American leadership on the world stage that made that achievement possible. It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well. And what made that leadership and ambition possible was America’s private innovation and public investment in growing industries like wind and solar – industries that created some of the fastest new streams of good-paying jobs in recent years, and contributed to the longest streak of job creation in our history.
Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.
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. 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.
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