Pulling Out of the Paris Climate Agreement

On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would be working to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord as it stands over the next 3 ½ years. This is not necessarily a permanent withdrawal. Trump expressed his hope that the terms could be renegotiated so that they are more advantageous to the U.S. This would include reopening factories the agreement closed.

According to the whitehouse.gov transcript of the speech, Trump cited “the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country” as his rationale for leaving. These include the ceasing of coal production and the reduction of paper manufacturing and cement, iron and steel production. He claims these are restrictions imposed more harshly on the U.S. than other countries in the agreement.

Since this announcement, there have been many conflicting reports on whether Trump intends to go through with this withdrawal, though the latest reports say that he does. Furthermore, arguments have been ongoing as to whether leaving the Paris Climate Accord is really as wise a move for U.S. interests as Trump claims it to be. Those who say that it is do so on several grounds.

A major argument put forward by both the Washington Post and the Heritage Foundation for leaving the Accord has to do with the role of the Chinese in the agreement. Though opponents of leaving the agreement have argued that the U.S. will cede leadership on climate issues to China, Beijing has repeatedly falsified its data regarding coal consumption and pollution. The country’s poor air quality, which is unrelated to CO2 emissions, means that it is difficult to compare the positions of the U.S. and China, according to the articles.

Another argument has to do with the U.S. function as a world power. In order to maintain our status. as such, proponents of withdrawing from the agreement argue that it is important to show our willingness to protect our own interests.

Beyond international political concerns, Trump’s desire is to repeal Obama-era restrictions on CO2 emissions. He wants to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which was instated under President Obama. This is objectionable to environmental groups. If the U.S. is still a member of the Paris Climate Accord, then these groups will be able to sue on that basis.

Another domestic reason for withdrawal from the Accord is that Trump has already basically done so anyway by repealing these environmental restrictions. Though this is possible under the Paris Climate Accord, it will be more sustainable if we are no longer a part of the agreement so that future presidents cannot use it as a basis for reinstating them.

Arguments for withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord are related to the U.S. status as a world power and to Trump’s policies as already enacted.

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic.

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