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Trump Withdraws U.S. From Paris Climate Accord, Seeks Renegotiation

by Countable | 7.17.17

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that his administration will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, and begin renegotiating the Paris accord or a new agreement on more favorable terms. Trump said the U.S. will look to begin the renegotiation process immediately.

Trump called the Paris Agreement "the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries," saying it would lead to “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.” He also said that even if the accord were fully implemented, it’d only lead to 0.2°C decrease in global temperature by 2100, and as a result is “less about the climate, and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the U.S.”

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is the first comprehensive, global agreement to combat man-made climate change. It is an 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. The goals, from Article 2 of the convention, are:

  • Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

  • Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

  • Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

In general, the Paris Agreement functions by having each signatory nation develop a climate plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It contains no penalties for noncompliance, instead hoping that diplomatic pressure will encourage countries to abide by their stated goals. The U.S. committed to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and pay out $3 billion in aid to poorer countries by 2020 ($1 billion has been paid so far.

The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at a UNFCC conference in Paris and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. Signing began on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. By October 2016, there were enough countries that had ratified the agreement that produce enough of the world's greenhouse gases for the agreement to be enacted. The agreement went into effect on November 4, 2016.

As of May 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 147 of which have ratified it. The only other two U.N. member countries who have not signed it are Syria and Nicaragua.

How can Trump withdraw?

When the Obama administration committed to abide by the Paris Agreement, it feared that the Senate wouldn't ratify the deal as a treaty and thereby make it permanent. Instead, former President Barack Obama entered into an executive agreement by pledging to support the accord. By their nature, executive agreements aren't binding, so future administrations can choose to continue or abandon them at their discretion.

Tell your reps what you think of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and what renegotiations should look like using the Take Action button.

— Eric Revell and Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: National Park Service / Public Domain)

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