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Trump withdraws the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement

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Signed by 195 countries, the Paris Agreement’s central purpose is to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” 

Donald Trump at CPAC, February 2017 (Michael Vadon)

The partaking countries agreed to sharply lower greenhouse-gas emissions in order to limit the temperature increase to a maximum of 1.5C.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump, who in 2012 called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, announced that the United States would withdraw from the agreement, as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty.” The US now joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries to oppose the climate agreement.

Trump says he remains open to negotiating a new climate deal, “on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

Withdrawing from the agreement had been one of Trump’s campaign promises, arguing that the deal was “bad for US business” and would harm the economy by hindering job creations in the oil and coil industry.

Moreover, he also believe it would result in putting the country’s energy resources “under lock and key”, and that allowing for a foreign bureaucrat input on US companies’ energy use hinders his populist and isolationist message of “America first”.

Furthermore, several politicians on Trump’s administration (including Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency) deem the deal unnecessary, since they do not believe in global warming, or believe that humans are not responsible for it.

Both Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have warned Trump against the withdrawal. They argue that doing so would be bad not only for the environment but also for the US business and economy, and that staying in would create jobs in the clean energy sector.

After Trump’s announcement, Musk announced his own withdrawal from Trump’s business advisory council, tweeting that “leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.” In fact, hundreds of US companies (including Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss and so on) have signed an open letter to Trump, urging him not to withdraw from the deal. The plea claims that “failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk” and that “the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness”.

As the world’s second-biggest carbon dioxide emitter (the first one being China), the US leaving the Paris agreement will no doubt have a resounding impact on the deal. Some fear the withdrawal will influence other countries to do the same, or weaken their commitment to the agreement. In fact, the US had promised (under Obama’s administration) to give $3billion to help poor nations address the effects of climate change.

Although a third was already given under Obama’s presidency, Trump is adamant he'll cancel the future payments - which could discourage developing countries to follow through the agreement.

However, both China and the EU have assured they will stick with the accord with or without the US. On Thursday, China’s Premier Li Keqiang highlighted the “global responsibility” to fight climate change, deeming it a “global consensus… not invented by China.”

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference that Russia “attaches great significance” to the deal, while also admitting that “the effectiveness of this convention is likely to be reduced without its key participants."

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni released a joint statement that read: “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.”

Theresa May remained out of the joint statement, but a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister had a phone call with Trump after his announcement where she “expressed her disappointment with the decision and stressed that the UK remained committed to the Paris Agreement.”

Meanwhile, Obama, a big defender of the Paris Agreement, has condemned the withdrawal and claims Trump’s administration “joins a small handful of nations that reject the future”, but also assured his confidence that the USA will continue to “help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

The withdrawal takes four years to complete, with an official exit set for November 4th, 2020 - the day after the Presidential election. Hence, the administration that follows Trump’s could rejoin the accord shortly after if it decides to do so.

Leaving the Paris agreement risks not only to hinder the US’ relations with countries committed to fight global warming, but also to hamper the country’s prosperity by leaving it behind in the clean energy sector. The deal shows a country reluctant to move forward to more sustainable energy, and selfishly clinging to past, polluting, and more profitable ones.

With overwhelming facts and statistics proving the very real threat of global warming, Trump’s decision to withdraw from to the deal on isolationist and economical ground seems small-minded and ill-grounded. Such decision lacks the bigger picture and consensus that each country, and especially a leading one such as the US, holds a responsibility to future generations to limit the already-present environmental damages induced by human activities.

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