Announced on June 1, 2017
On June 1st, President Trump turned his back on climate change and the rest of the world by announcing US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord (PCA). The historic climate agreement boasts 195 countries; only the US, Syria, and Nicaragua are not a part of the deal (Nicaragua does not believe the accord is tough enough on climate, and Syria has been entrenched in civil conflict during negotiations). Trump argued that the PCA will have devastating economic implications, disadvantaging “the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.” Trump also repeatedly expressed interest in renegotiating the agreement, but the UN and world leaders said the deal could not (and would not) be renegotiated at the request of a single nation.
The Paris Climate Accord aims “to limit the [global] temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius” by 2100, signaling international agreement in the importance of climate change and indicating a global shift away from fossil fuels toward clean and renewable energy. The PCA was created to be nonbinding, giving ratifying countries the independence to set their own emissions reduction plans, ensuring flexibility for domestic situations and changing circumstances, and dispelling fear of penalties. The deal encourages ratifying countries to peak their greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, creates a timetable for countries to make more ambitious pledges and ratchet up efforts, and negotiates climate aid commitments for developing nations. While the agreement is nonbinding, a recent study from the Grantham Research Institute indicates that the soft diplomacy of the accord has already pushed dozens of countries to pass clean energy laws, and environmental groups have lauded the agreement for symbolizing the world’s commitment to fight climate change.
As President Trump explained the US withdrawal from the agreement, he deployed an array of inaccuracies and misconceptions about the PCA. He harped on onerous restrictions and regulations that would burden the US and then expresses interest in renegotiating the agreement. But the goals set by the US in the Paris Accord are nonbinding; Trump can unilaterally change the commitments to protect the economy in any way he wants. He highlighted “unfairness” within the PCA by arguing that the US would be prevented from building coal plants while China and India both massively expand coal production, but the US can alter its commitments, China has canceled plans to build over a hundred coal plants for the next few years, and, on a per capita basis, the US emits twice the amount of carbon as China (eight times that of India). His attempt to trivialize the 2100 effects of the PCA as the “tiny, tiny amount” of 0.2 degrees was swiftly rebuked by the MIT researchers he was quoting who pointed out that the actual reduction would be 0.9, a reduction that large has significant impacts on the planet, and this is purely based off of country’s initial commitments (the PCA sets countries up to make more ambitious pledges every five years until 2100). Trump’s economic arguments rely on a highly disputed study from the National Economic Research Associates; the study “assumed a scenario no policy expert expects,” didn’t consider potential benefits from avoided emissions, didn’t account for greater investment in clean energy and innovation, and was funded by opponents of the PCA.
Trump’s decision may have debilitating effects on the economy and influence of the United States. Many economic analysts worry that leaving the PCA will decrease American competitiveness by rejecting the world’s transition to a low carbon economy. The clean energy industry is projected to be a 3 trillion-dollar industry by 2030, and the Trump administration is expressing intent to pass on federal investment that is key to clean energy growth and innovation. Clean energy is poised to usurp the global energy economy and the US is squandering the chance to advance its energy market and “to create vast numbers of advanced energy jobs.” As the US leaves the helm, China may step up and fill the leadership void; both politically and economically. China has pushed climate initiatives in recent years and could use the US void to fill clean energy voids in developing countries and to corner the wind and solar manufacturing market. Withdrawal could also hurt influence by shattering diplomatic relationships, leaving the US out of continued global engagement and undercutting “diplomatic priorities across the globe”. The issue of climate change affects the entire planet and requires collaboration from every country to effectively combat it; Trump’s isolationist policies and rejection of science have removed the second-largest producer of carbon dioxide from the first international agreement to lower emissions. While the withdrawal propels a terrifying trend from the highest branches of government, optimistic citizens hope that cities, states, and businesses can drive energy transformation in spite of the Trump administration.
- Natural Resources Defense Council – an international environmental advocacy group committed to fighting Trump’s “environmental assault” and providing individuals with avenues for action.
- Town Hall Project – empowers and encourages citizens to have conversations with their representatives. Call 1-844-6-RESIST to be redirected to the office of your local Congressperson.
- Sierra Club – the nation’s largest environmental preservation organization; focuses include mitigating global warming and opposing coal; suing the Trump administration over this EO.
This brief was compiled by Conor Downey. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.