What does the Withdrawal of the US from the Paris Accord mean?

Yesterday, Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and stated the agreement was economically and politically a disaster for the United States.  Like most people, I had heard of the agreement, but wanted to dive in deeper to learn why the  President would want to join Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not in the agreement.

The Paris Climate Agreement is a non-binding agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020.  Each country determines their own contributions, called “Nationally Determined Contributions”, or “NDCs” to mitigate climate change and global warming.  No country is forced to set a specific target by a specific date.  A country can change its emissions strategy and energy policy at any time.

The first point that jumps out is that the agreement is non-binding.  Donald Trump states that the agreement is draconian and will hurt the US financially which is not possible since the agreement is by definition, non-binding.  In many ways, the agreement was purely symbolic and viewed by the world as a global agreement to fight climate change and improve the environment by reducing emissions.  In leaving the agreement, the administration has decided that the US will not be a leader in fighting climate change and instead prefers an isolationist policy that fits what he told his base on his campaign tour.

Prior to the withdrawal, President Trump had already began to roll back Obama era regulations on emissions and was retreating from the agreement.  Since the agreement was non-binding, he was in every right to do so.  The US could have stayed in the Paris Agreement and Trump and his cronies at the EPA and in coal could have continued to roll back regulations that would allow our children and grandchildren to breath clean air.  It seems clear that Trump, and the rest of the Republican Party, simply wants to remove any and all of Obama’s policies without proposing a better plan or looking at the merit of the previous policy.  In many ways, the withdrawal from the Paris Accord hurts Trump because it allows Americans and the rest of the world to focus their energy on a major action rather than a series of executive orders that are much harder to resist and unify around.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, and Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, both resigned from Trump’s advisory council due to Trump’s decision to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.  My guess is they both wanted to resign at prior dates due to the fact their opinions were not be heeded in anyway by the President and this gave them the opportunity to resign in a grandiose way over a major decision by the Commander in Chief.

The idea that by becoming a leader in fighting emissions and focusing on clean energy while China and India are able to continue producing coal plants is absolutely baffling.  To start, clean energy employs six times the number of jobs than the coal industry.  The US also has an enormous supply of natural gas that has allowed us to move away from coal and into alternate forms.  China and India do not have the resources that we do and must continue to open coal plants to meet the growing needs of their booming population and modernizing economies.  However, both China and India have greatly lowered the number of coal and fossil fuel plants and focused on renewable energy.  The US needs to continue to be a leader in all areas and understand that regulation is some areas is an important part to improving the US and our position globally.  Complaining that we are at a disadvantage to China (which we are not) due to renewable energy regulations is the same as saying we are at a disadvantage to China because they can use child labor and the US frowns on that sort of thing.

The withdrawal of the Paris Climate Accord greatly hurts the United States’ image throughout the globe and shows that the current administration is unable to work with other countries.  In doing so, he opens up the leadership opportunity to other countries (mainly China in a similar fashion as he did with TPP) when it comes to developing policy.  Donald Trump has already begun systematically rolling back regulations and denying climate change, but this gesture makes it clear to the world that the US should no longer be taken seriously as the leader and protector of the world.

In his speech, Donald Trump stated that he was elected by the voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris.  Hmm.

From the Mayor of Pittsburgh:

And others:

The current administration wants to bring back coal to appease its base, but they are giving the coal miner false hope.  Instead they should focus on the growing industries in renewable energy and how to be a leader of the free world.  The Paris Accord doesn’t. t really matter, but it further shows Trump’s lack of understanding of science and technological innovation.  The planet needs the US to lead or like one Congressman, maybe we can just wait for God to fix it all.


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4 thoughts on “What does the Withdrawal of the US from the Paris Accord mean?

  1. Good read and I am on the same page with you for most of this. I read in wsj that the long term strategies of many big US companies was designed with emissions consumption in mind. Given a year has passed on this path, they doubt many companies will change their path based on this event. I’m hoping that sticks and companies keep marching towards those goals despite the US support of the deal.

    I’d like to know how thinkprogress.org defines clean energy jobs vs coal / gas jobs

  2. Thanks for sharing – very informative and helpful in understanding the impact of the withdrawal. I read a few WSJ articles (including the one mentioned by Matt above), and many companies are also going to continue their impact because they operate on a global scale and in parts need to cooperate with other countries’ commitments as well.

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