President Donald Trump announced the United States will walk away from the Paris accord, a move that could cripple the landmark 2015 agreement between 195 countries to fight climate change. The deal requires a three-year notice to withdraw, but Trump announced the U.S. will stop complying with its nonbinding aspects, including paying billions of dollars to help developing countries retool their economies.
“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden Thursday afternoon. “But we will begin negotiations to reenter the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fairer to the United States, its businesses, and its taxpayers.”
In a joint statement, France, Germany and Italy said the Paris accord cannot be renegotiated.
The Paris deal seeks to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels, a benchmark scientists believe could devastate the planet’s ecosystems. As part of the agreement, each participating country crafted a plan to reduce its planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States had promised to decrease its domestic greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter below 2005 levels by 2025 and to hand over up to $3 billion in aid by 2020 to help other countries reduce their emissions.
The president, however, characterized the deal as damaging to American workers and the decision to leave as keeping a campaign promise to the American people.
“The accord was negotiated poorly by the Obama administration and signed out of desperation,” read talking points sent out by the White House and obtained by CNN. “It front-loads costs on the American people to the detriment of our economy and job growth while extracting meaningless commitments from the world’s top global emitters, like China.”
Trump had campaigned on the promise of putting “America First,” including withdrawing from the Paris deal, which he said would cost the U.S. economy nearly $3 trillion “in lost GDP” and 6.5 million jobs.
“The Obama-negotiated accord imposes unrealistic targets on the U.S. for reducing our carbon emissions, while giving countries like China a free pass for years to come,” the White House said in a memo, obtained by Bloomberg. The concept of “fairness” seems to matter a great deal to Trump, who once threatened to quit the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and still openly criticizes member-nations for not paying their dues.
Still, nearly half of Trump voters believe that the United States should remain in the Paris agreement. And President Barack Obama, who signed the deal on behalf of the United States, said in a statement that ”the nations that remain in the Paris agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created.”
In his speech Thursday, Trump said that withdrawing from the Paris agreement “won’t matter much to the climate.” But many environmental groups, scientists, and politicians across party lines strongly disagree with that statement.
Continuing the fight between federal and state policy simmering underneath the Trump administration, 61 mayors, representing 36 millions Americans have pledged to honor and uphold the goals of the Paris agreement, regardless of Trump’s announcement.
“[I]f the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks,” they wrote in a statement. “The world cannot wait — and neither will we.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto especially fired back at Trump when the president said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” during his speech.
Pieter Tans, who has studied greenhouse gas emissions for decades and now serves as the lead scientist at the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, called the Paris accord a “great step forward” because it recognized humans’ role in causing climate change. A series of Pew studies shows that 2016 marked the largest gap yet between Republicans and Democrats over belief in human-caused global warming.
“It’s urgent that we start to decrease emissions pretty aggressively,” Tans said. “Now, for the United States to walk away from that, it’s tantamount to a crime. Who are we to commit future generations to climate change that is much worse than what would be in our power to prevent?”
Only two countries were not a part of the original Paris deal: Syria and Nicaragua. With Syria embroiled in a devastating civil war, its lack of participation was, to say the least, unsurprising; Nicaragua, meanwhile, chose not to join the agreement because the country’s leadership believed its terms did not go far enough to fight climate change. Even North Korea ratified the Paris agreement. And the day before Trump announced his plans, Russian President Vladimir Putin also made a statement supporting the agreement.
Without the United States, leading the global fight against climate change will likely fall to China and the European Union — and they’re more than ready. Chinese and E.U. officials will jointly reiterate their commitment to climate and energy policy on Friday, according to Reuters.
“Of course the world will not sit still,” Tans said. “The United States will be left behind by the rest of the world.”
Still, countries may have difficulty compensating for the United States’ departure, since the country is the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. China is the world’s top emitter. The United States also contributed a sizable amount of money to help fund developing countries’ efforts to combat climate change.
Corporate titans, which were already concerned about Trump’s decision to leave the agreement, also issued statements of dismay.