Waving Banner of Economic Nationalism, Trump Withdraws U.S. from Paris Climate Accord

Saying that the Paris climate agreement is an onerous infringement on U.S sovereignty and “puts our country at a very, very big economic disadvantage,” President Donald Trump withdrew today from the accord.

President Trump announcing U.S. withdrawal from Paris agreement.

President Trump announcing U.S. withdrawal from Paris agreement. REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE

Under the Paris agreement, reached in 2015 by 195 nations, the U.S. is required to exit the accord over four years, but Trump said that, effective immediately, the U.S. would no longer honor its emissions-reduction pledges made at Paris, nor contribute to a UN Green Climate Fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change and develop renewable sources of energy.

In his Rose Garden announcement, Trump sounded the nationalist themes that were the hallmark of his presidential campaign, arguing that the Paris agreement would cost the U.S. millions of jobs, transfer billions of dollars overseas, and impose “Draconian costs” on the U.S. economy.

He said the Paris accord imposed “no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters,” referring specifically to China and India, which — given their relative lack of historic emissions compared to the U.S. — will be allowed to continue emitting higher levels of CO2 over the coming decades than major industrialized powers.

“The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States,” Trump said. “The agreement does not eliminate coal jobs but just transfers them out of the U.S. and shifts them to foreign countries … We would find it very, very hard to compete with other countries around the world … The agreement is a massive distribution of United States wealth to other countries.”

“I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump continued.

Trump cited numerous statistics, many gleaned from conservative think tanks, that will surely be disputed by critics. At various points, he said the Paris accord would cost the U.S. 2.7 million jobs, or 6.5 million jobs. He maintained that the accord, if implemented fully, would only reduce global temperatures by two-tenths of 1 degree C by 2100, which scientists say vastly understates the positive impacts of the accord on restraining temperature increases.

He stressed that the Paris accord was a major infringement on U.S. sovereignty, adding, “This international agreement prevents the U.S. from conducting its own domestic economic affairs.” He also made statements that supporters of the agreement say exaggerate the accord’s requirements, including the assertion that the agreement “would effectively put [U.S. fossil fuel] reserves under lock and key.”

As for the Green Climate Fund for developing countries, Trump said, “Billions of dollars that ought to be invested right here [will be] sent to the very countries that have taken our jobs and factories.”

Trump said that he was willing to renegotiate a global climate treaty under terms that were more fair to the U.S., but the chances of that happening are virtually nil, especially after Trump criticized major signatories to the agreement, such as China and India, and repeatedly disparaged the hard-won accord. The reaction to Trump’s announcement in foreign capitals was expected to be harsh, and many countries made it clear that they will continue to abide by the Paris agreement even if the U.S. drops out.

Analysts in Washington said that Trump’s announcement was a clear victory for the hardline nationalist wing in his administration, led by chief adviser Steve Bannon, over more moderate elements, such as Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.

— Fen Montaigne