Trump announces US exit from Paris Climate Change Agreement

Trump announces US exit from Paris Climate Change Agreement

In a dramatic move, US President Donald Trump, announced last week that the US intends to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which it entered into just two years ago. At a White House press conference, Trump said that the US will "begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States and its businesses, workers and taxpayers." As per Trump’s statement, the US will no longer fulfill the pledges it took as part of the Agreement. This includes monetary contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries introduce low-emission and climate-resilient projects and programs.

In 2015, the Paris accord brought together more than 190 nations which pledged to maintain average global temperatures to 1.5–2 °C above pre-industrial levels by reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as to protect low-lying islands from the rising sea level and help reduce developing/underdeveloped economies' reliance on toxic fossil fuels.

According to Trump, "This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States." The primary motivation behind the White House announcement, he explains, is his intention to salvage the coal industry in the country and ensure that the employment rates in the domestic coal mining sector don’t suffer. This is also in line with Trump’s promises to his Republican supporters and his "America first" policy. According to a New York Times report, Trump justified his decision by pointing out which sectors of the US economy would lose revenue and jobs if the country's allegiance to the Paris accord continued. He also asserted that upholding the terms of the Agreement would cost the country 2.7 million jobs by 2025.

Reactions to Trump’s statement

Trump’s actions have elicited strong reactions from various segments at home and abroad. Within hours of his statement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) issued a statement saying that the Paris Agreement "cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party."  

Apple, Facebook, Mars Incorporated, Morgan Stanley, 3M, Bank of America, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Procter & Gamble, Tesla, Virgin Group, and the Walt Disney Company were among 25 major US companies to publish a full-page letter urging Trump to not withdraw from the Paris Agreement: 

By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth. U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets. Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to them and could expose us to retaliatory measures.

Reporting for TechCrunch, Hemant Taneja said that the coal and oil industries are bound to suffer as the number of advanced energy jobs will increase. Jay Inslee, Washington State Governor expressed his opposition to Trump’s decision on behalf of several US governors, saying, "We Governors are going to step into this cockpit and fly the plane. The President wants to ground it – we’re going to fly it."

Also, several companies and states have decided to continue their own plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and work towards more energy efficient systems. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook posted a message saying, "Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children's future at risk."

According to Jane Lubchenco, marine ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis and former administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this move by Trump shows "a blatant disregard for the wishes of most Americans and business leaders, an irresponsible and callous dismissal of the health, safety and economic well-being of Americans, a moral emptiness in ignoring impacts to the poorest people in the US and around the world, and gross ignorance about overwhelming scientific evidence."

What happens next

Despite Trump's expression of intent to withdraw, the US is still part of UNFCCC and he has pledged to "ensure that the United States remains the world leader on environmental issues." However, it won’t be easy for Trump to exit the Agreement, because it prevents the US from withdrawing from the pact for four years. This means the final verdict won’t be out until November 2020 (also the time of the next presidential elections in the US). This move by Trump might also give other countries an opportunity to make a mark in the global clean and green energy industry. However, it is clear that the general reaction to this decision is that of distress. How the signatories to the Paris Climate Change Agreement will tackle the situation and what will be the immediate national and global ramifications of the US decision to withdraw from it remain to be seen.

How do you perceive this move?  Do leave your comments below.

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