The Paris Climate Agreement was signed on December 12th, 2015. At 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 1st, 2017, Donald Trump announced that the United States will be withdrawing from the agreement. Trump also announced that the United States would stop paying into the Green Climate Fund.
The Paris Agreement is designed to combat climate change and alleviate its effects. The foremost goal of the agreement is for countries to limit rising temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The United States has now become one of three countries to not take part in the agreement, the others being Syria and Nicaragua.
The Green Climate Fund is an organization that endeavors to provide $100 billion per year to developing countries by 2020. The Green Climate Fund receives these funds from both the public and private sectors of developed countries, and uses this money to help developing countries fight the effects of climate change.
On Thursday, Trump explained his withdrawal by reasoning that the agreement was unfair. According to Trump, the agreement made it easier for other countries, like China, to support jobs that involve carbon emissions, like coal. In light of these “harsh economic restrictions,” Trump saw leaving the deal as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty.”
The decision to leave the Green Climate Fund was backed by Trump’s explanation that the fund was financially over-demanding on the United States. According to Trump, the United States is the leader on environmental issues, and the Green Climate Fund’s demands for funding were unfair, just like the Paris Agreement.
It is unclear what Trump meant when he spoke of the United States as the leader in environmental issues, but he could not have meant in carbon emissions. The United States, as of today, is second only to China when it comes to total carbon emissions. China is also approaching the United States as a world leader in renewable energy, especially with its wind energy capacity.
Whatever Trump meant, he made it clear that it was not his intention to cease the fight against climate change. Trump asserted that he would work to “re-enter either the Paris Accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers.” Whether this will happen is unclear, but it represents a shift in Trump’s attitude towards climate change, especially from earlier claims.
Scott Pruitt spoke following Trump and praised the president’s decision. “Before the Paris accord was signed, America had reduced its carbon emissions,” said Pruitt. “This was accomplished not through government mandate, but through innovation and technology of the American sector.” If this private approach persists and succeeds, Trump may see reason to avoid re-entering the agreement.
Whether or not Trump decides to re-enter, it is still unclear which route Trump will take to withdraw in the first place. Under the treaty, no country is allowed to withdraw from the agreement until three years after its enforcement. This means the United States is not officially allowed to back out until November in 2019. However, during his speech, Trump claimed that the United States was no longer a part of the deal, “as of today.” What Trump could mean by this is that the United States will just stop complying, as there are no direct consequences outlined in the agreement if a country fails to meet its climate targets.
Trump’s future relationship with climate change is unclear. However, there is no denying that the United States’ withdrawal from this agreement is a significant event in the landscape of debate on climate change.