President Announces US Pullout From Climate Accord

President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord on June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, despite pleas from scores of world leaders and the CEOs of dozens of U.S. corporations. However, he said he planned to negotiate a deal that’s “fairer” to the United States and that he’s open to opting back into a revised agreement at a later date.

But that latter notion got immediate push-back from France, Germany, and Italy who said in a joint statement that the Paris climate accord can’t be renegotiated.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she regrets the president’s  decision to pull out of the climate agreement, while Social Democratic members of her cabinet said in a separate statement that “the United States is harming itself, us Europeans and all other people in the world.”

Trump made the announcement before invited guests, many of them opponents of the accord, in the Rose Garden Thursday afternoon.

He called the climate accord “draconian” and “unfair to the United States at the highest level.” He also claimed that if allowed to go forward, the Paris Climate Accord would cost the nation nearly 3 million jobs.

“This agreement is less about the climate and more about the rest of the world gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” Trump said.

“The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries,” he continued, claiming the accord muzzles U.S. energy development, particularly in regard to coal, while allowing other nations — particularly, India and China — to continue to development their coal resources.

“The Paris Climate Accord is just the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that damages the US … leaving American workers who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages and shuttered factories,” Trump claimed.

The president based many of his claims on the work of National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm whose clients the major corporations, large law firms, and entities in the coal and fossil fuel industries among others.

Citing NERA, Trump said that compliance with the terms of the Paris accord “and the energy restrictions it has placed on the U.S.” would result in the loss of 2.7 million jobs by 2025.

That number includes 40,000 fewer manufacturing jobs, he said, adding, “This is not what we need.”

“According to same study,” the president continued, “by 2040, compliance with commitments put into place by the previous administration would cut production for the following sectors: paper, down 12 percent; cement, down 23 percent; iron and steel, down 38 percent; coal  — and I happen to love the coal miners — 86 percent; natural gas, down 31 percent.

“The cost of the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income and in many cases, much worse than that,” Trump claimed.

White House talking points obtained by The Associated Press before the announcement say that the Paris accord “is a BAD deal for Americans” and that the president’s action would keep “his campaign promise to put American workers first.”

“The Accord,” the document goes on to say, “was negotiated poorly by the Obama Administration and signed out of desperation.”

“The U.S. is already leading the world in energy production and doesn’t need a bad deal that will harm American workers,” it reads.

At the podium, Trump went on to question whether attempting to roll back greenhouse-gas emissions even makes sense.

“Even if it was implemented in full, with total compliance, it is estimated it would only produce a 2/10ths of one degree Celsius reduction in global temperatures by the year 2100. A tiny, tiny amount,” he said, holding up his hand and pinching his thumb and forefinger together.

The president called his decision to walk away from the deal a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty.”

“Our constitution is unique among all nations in the world and it my highest obligation and greatest honor to protect it. And I will,” he said.

Exiting the agreement kicks off a lengthy withdrawal process. The Trump administration plans to invoke the accord’s formal exit mechanism, a complicated legal process that will take four years to complete and would lead to an official exit on Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the next presidential election — meaning the last word on the nation’s participation in the climate deal could belong to voters in the next presidential contest.

Even if a complete withdrawal come to pass, the U.S. would still be a party to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change and could still participate in future U.N.­sponsored climate discussions.

Because the Senate never ratified the Paris climate accord, there are no domestic hurdles to overcome to back out of the deal. In fact, the Trump administration has already been actively dismantling Obama-era  domestic climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan to curtail emissions from power plants.

Environmentalists are already challenging these efforts in court, and additional lawsuits are sure to follow as the Trump administration continues to loosen the reins on the oil and gas industry.

In the meantime, several states, including California and New York, have said they plan to continue to reduce emissions and foster the growth of renewable energy.

In fact, in response to Thursday’s announcement, California Gov.Jerry Brown, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris climate accord and take aggressive action on climate change.

“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Cuomo said. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an executive order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown also issued a stinging rebuke to the president in regard to his decision.

“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course,” the governor said. “He’s wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle.”

And many companies — notably those who signed on to full-page ads in the The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal today, including Proctor & Gamble, The Coca Cola Company, Unilever and Goldman Sachs — plan to continue their embrace of clean energy and other green policies.

Nearly 200 countries have signed on to climate accord since it was negotiated in December 2015.

Former President Barack Obama, a supporter of the agreement, pledged that the United States would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent by 2020. The Obama administration also pledged $3 billion to help impoverished nations battle the effects of climate change.

As Trump spoke, Obama issued a lengthy statement describing the Paris accord as “the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.

“It was steady, principled American leadership on the world stage that made that achievement possible. It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well,” the former president said. “And what made that leadership and ambition possible was America’s private innovation and public investment in growing industries like wind and solar – industries that created some of the fastest new streams of good-paying jobs in recent years, and contributed to the longest streak of job creation in our history.

“Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale,” Obama said.

“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” he added. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

Former Vice President Al Gore called the decision to exit the Paris agreement “a reckless and indefensible action.”

In a statement, Gore said the move “undermines America’s standing in the world.”

“We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president,” he said.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors said it also strongly opposes Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The mayors said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. and other nations need to address climate change to become energy independent, self-reliant and resilient.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the group’s vice president, called climate change a grave threat to coastal communities, the nation and the world. He said that if unchecked, sea-level rise caused by climate change could mean that New Orleans and other coastal cities “will cease to exist.”

Landrieu said withdrawal from the Paris agreement “is shortsighted and will be devastating to Americans in the long run.”

In the hours before President Trump’s announcement, five Nordic countries wrote him a last-minute letter urging him to “make the right decision” and keep America signed onto the Paris climate accord.

The leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden said the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce global warming was a commitment “to our children.”

They said it is “crucial … that all parties stick to the Paris Agreement.”

The letter was signed “Your Nordic Friends.”

Other nations, including Russia and China reaffirmed their commitment to the accord.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that Russia “thinks highly” of the accords and there is no alternative to it.

But he added that its implementation will not be as effective “without the key signatories.”

Putin is meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later on Thursday. Modi on Wednesday expressed India’s commitment to fighting climate change and said it would be a “crime” to spoil the environment for future generations.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Thursday fighting climate change is a “global consensus” and an “international responsibility.”

Speaking in Berlin about the Paris climate change accord, he said that “China in recent years has stayed true to its commitment.”

Without mentioning the U.S. specifically, he said China has been “actively promoting the Paris agreement and we were one of the first countries to ratify the Paris agreement.”

He added: “Fighting climate change is a global consensus, it’s not invented by Chin … and we realize that this is a global consensus agreement and that as a big developing nation we should shoulder our international responsibility.”

Even before the president spoke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issued the a statement, calling the decision to withdraw from the agreement “an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace.”

“At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations,” Sanders said. “The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.

In contrast, Congressional Republicans applauded Trump’s decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the president has “put families and jobs ahead of left-wing ideology and should be commended.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “the Paris climate agreement was simply a raw deal for America.”

However, Heather Coleman, climate and energy director at Oxfam America, disagreed during a Thursday conference call hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“I’ve spent my career focusing on the issue of climate change and any of us who have been following this can be nothing but stunned at the lies that this president is promoting,” Coleman said. “This marked the moment where the U.S. has become a pariah on the issue of climate change.”

In Coleman’s estimation, pulling out of the deal directly avoids the reality that millions of people are facing negative climate effects, like rising temperatures which trigger crop die-off.

“We’re seeing the impact of climate change every day. Millions of people in Africa are now on the verge of famine. We see [the impact] in Alaska and Louisiana, where communities are being uprooted,” she said. “And what do they have in common? These climate change-affected communities aren’t living in marble and black clad apartment buildings with their name on it and they don’t have millions of Twitter followers and rely on us to speak for them.”

Jake Schmidt, director of international program at the National Resources Defense Council, just returned from a meeting with senior officials in China last week and was deeply encouraged by the rapid progress the Chinese have invested into moving forward with Paris accord commitments.

“In the last three years, China has seen a decline in coal consumption and their CO2 emissions have been flat, showing early signs they’ll achieve peak emissions by 2030 while they build out solar and wind,” he said during the conference call.

In India, Schmidt says renewable energy progress is also moving ahead: the country is on pace to build 100 gigawatts of solar installations and the country is showing signs of hurdling past current agreement emission markers.

“They’ll beat and exceed Paris targets several years in advance,” Schmidt said. “Despite the claims that neither [China nor India] have serious commitments, the opposite is true and both are moving forward quite significantly.”

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, also contested the president’s claims.

“There’s not one country that will come to the table and renegotiate. That was a total fig leaf to make it appear that [other countries could be] reasonable or open to negotiation and that’s false,” said Meyer.

“This is already causing an uproar around the U.S.,” he noted. “This emperor has no clothes and doesn’t have a leg to stand on and no one will follow his lead. It will create tremendous blowback on his agenda. On trade, on terrorism and other things he professes to care about.”

But “weirdly enough,” Meyer said he wasn’t entirely cynical.

“The actions of the president today may galvanize greater ambition outside of Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Regarding the NERA report Trump cited during his announcement, Meyer and Schmidt agreed those claims were patently false.

“That was an analysis that was based on an assumption that government efforts are frozen post-2030 and it just looks at commitments that were made in Paris or in run up to Paris. The Paris decision acknowledged that those commitments were inadequate and would get us nowhere near the glide path we need to be on to hold below the 2 degree Celsius rise,” Meyer said. “The whole structure was designed to encourage frequent re-examination.”

Meyer explained that the next round of examinations would occur as 2020 approaches, meaning that nations which put up 2025 targets would be expected to deliver on their 2030 emissions level commitments at that time.  The same is true of China, India and the European Union, he added.

“All would be asked to re-examine and ratchet upwards and they’re well ahead of schedule on that. It’s not a pipe dream and it’s very clear that could happen,” he said.  “If you put more ambitious targets, you get a very different result. Any MIT analyst would be the first to acknowledge that. The president was not factually incorrect [in his assessment today] but it was totally misleading because it assumed that time would be frozen as of December 2015 and countries would not increase their ambition forever and ever.”

As far as job loss goes, Schmidt said Trump’s reliance on the “widely debunked NERA study” debases the entirety of his claims on Paris.

“The president relied on a widely debunked NERA study for the job loss argument. The fact is, the U.S. is already well on the way to meeting its target and has a growing clean tech sector. Job loss in coal is a result of inability for those sectors to compete and an incredible amount of increased efficiency in those companies that can,” Schmidt said. “He obviously wasn’t pointing that out, but that’s been the case for a long time in the coal sector. I think that it was clear from what the president was trying to show that he was very focused only on a couple of sectors and not on the broad economy. The fact that the U.S. is so far along in meeting its targets already, and the fact that the economy has been growing in the meantime, is the more important fact.”

Proof exists in the 3 million clean energy jobs that have sprung up in recent years, Schmidt said.

“And that’s with just our status quo policy. So the more action we’re taking, the more jobs will be created and I think you can see this not just with environmentalists, but all the major name brands in the U.S., the massive job producers including GE, Kellogg and a number of others who strongly urged him to stay,” Schmidt said. “I highly doubt that those companies would support any agreement that would put themselves out of business.”

 

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