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Trump disappoints the world by pulling out of Paris Accord

23rd Jun 2017

White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, hailed President Donald Trump’s first international trip a “semi-revolution.” However, the only major shift that occurred as a result of the tour was the US’s severely diminished standing as a world leader.

The trip included a visit to the Middle East, the Vatican, Brussels for a NATO Summit, and Sicily for the G7 meeting. Upon returning, Trump announced that he would pull the United States out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, signed in December 2015, and ratified by the US alongside China only last year. The deal was considered a major step towards stronger international diplomacy and combating climate change.

Nations at the front lines of the climate crisis had finally felt hopeful for their futures because even the world largest polluters, China and the United States, were agreeing to do their part to reduce emissions. Yet, Trump apparently felt that America’s participation in the agreement gave a reason for the international community to chuckle for putting the US in an adverse economic situation. President Trump does not seem to realise that in a globalised world, economic adversity for the world’s largest economy does not bode well for other nations either.

Streamed live on 1 Jun 2017 (Video:  United States Government)

As soon as Trump announced the decision to exit the accord, there was a wave of backlash, from the US, and abroad. Over 150 mayors within the US signed an agreement committing their cities to staying on track with the agreement, and the state of California signed an agreement with China to collaborate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, made a somewhat vague statement about being unable to rely on once strong allies, referring to the UK as well as the US, and called the US’s decision “extremely regrettable.” French President, Emmanuel Macron, said that he respected the decision but considered it misguided and against the US’s own interests; and even went on to invite American scientists to study in France.

At the G7, leaders heartily encouraged the US President to continue supporting the deal, citing a plethora of reasons, but primarily that China would be a direct beneficiary if the US were to exit. The only G7 leader who abstained from making a strong last-ditch effort to convince the US to remain in the accord was UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, who insinuated that the decision should be left to Washington. Back home, she was severely attacked for that decision by political opponents. The Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, described it as, “a dereliction of her duty both to our country and to our planet.” May did express disappointment in Trump’s decision but held firm to the belief that it was up to Washington.

Trump’s announcement to exit was, itself, riddled with misleading statements and blatant falsehoods regarding the deal. The New York Times fact-checked the speech and revealed the following:

Claim: the deal “punishes the United States.”
Reality: Each country submitted its own targets.

Claim: millions of jobs would be lost in the next seven years.
Reality: Statistics show that jobs have already been made by investing in efficiencies.

Claim: The accord would only slow warming by 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reality: The MIT study Trump cited claimed the deal could slow warming by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Claim: The Paris Agreement would move coal jobs out of the US and into other countries.
Reality: Trump has already loosened restrictions on coal within the US, which the Paris Agreement has no bearing over. Also, other forms of energy such as natural gas and renewables are becoming more affordable to produce, leading to coal’s obsolescence.

Trump also suggested renegotiating the deal, but leaders expressed that there was no chance of this happening. Years of hard work were spent reaching the agreement in its current form, and if other nations see that it is easy to simply renegotiate terms, it could spur a domino effect. The US’s exit is already striking fears that other nations will not work as hard to reach their commitments, though major nations have expressed their intention to stay on track regardless.

Removing the US from the Paris Agreement may have done more diplomatic than actual harm. Supporters of the move suggest that the market will drive the green economy regardless and that therefore there is no need for international regulation. The agreement was not legally binding; the US submitted its own commitment to reduce its GHG emissions 25-28% below 2005 levels, and they have already reduced them 12-14% over the last decade.

Yet, the rest of the world may not keep up with their commitments when such a large polluter has given itself a free pass to keep polluting shamelessly, and regulation has proven to help push industries in the right direction. President Trump wants to keep a campaign promise of bringing back coal jobs, yet even many coal miners know that those jobs are gone forever. After realizing that the world viewed the G7 and NATO summits as “chaotic,” complete with a white-knuckled handshake and Trump actually pushing the Prime Minister of Montenegro out of the way for a picture opportunity, there is a very real possibility that pulling out of the deal is the US President’s way of sticking it to world leaders.

There is little sensation left in citizens to be shocked by political decisions anymore, but Trump may have gravely underestimated the consequences of this one.

Sarah Sakeena Marshall, B.S. Environmental Policy



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