The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, on November 4, the first day the nation was allowed to start the process under the terms of the agreement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter the United States had filed formal paperwork to withdraw from the agreement, citing the “unfair economic burden” on U.S. workers, businesses, and taxpayers. The exit will become official on November 4, 2020. The Trump administration’s action came a little over two years after the president held a June 2, 2017 Rose Garden event at which Trump, keeping a campaign commitment, announced he would take the United States out of the agreement at the earliest possible date.
In his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly called the Paris agreement a bad deal for America, saying it would cost jobs and put the nation at a competitive disadvantage with countries the agreement did not require to make similar emission reductions.
“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France,” Trump said at the 2017 Rose Garden event.
Former President Barack Obama had signed the Paris climate agreement in 2015, committing the United States to reducing emissions 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Because he recognized he could never get the Senate to ratify the Paris agreement, Obama claimed it was not a treaty but an executive agreement not needing Senate approval. Obama’s administration then undertook a series of regulatory changes intended to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to meet its Paris commitments. These regulations included the Clean Power Plan (CPP) forcing states to impose restrictions on existing and new coal-fueled electric power plants—essentially forcing states to close such power plants and replace them primarily with wind and solar electric power facilities—and dramatically increased the fuel economy mandate automakers must meet for their vehicle fleet, benefiting electric vehicle manufacturers and forcing the public to buy smaller, less safe vehicles.
In keeping with his 2017 withdrawal announcement and in the run up to his administration’s filing the formal notice to withdraw, Trump has rolled back Obama’s signature climate regulations, replacing the CPP with the less-onerous Affordable Clean Energy rule and dramatically moderating the mandatory increase in fuel economy. Trump has argued the United States can reduce emissions without taxing carbon dioxide emissions or restricting fossil fuel development and use. The evidence indicates he is correct. Unlike in most countries, U.S. emissions have declined substantially over the past decade and a half, including during the first few years of the Trump administration.
In his tweets announcing the United States had started the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, Pompeo made clear the action was in the nation’s best interests and it would not stop us from helping other countries adapt to climate conditions.
“The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy,” Pompeo tweeted. “We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.”
Arguably, for America’s sovereignty and continued economic success, Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement is among the most consequential actions he has taken since being elected President. Climate experts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), among others, were ebullient at Trump’s action.
“Secretary of State Pompeo has today started the formal process to withdraw the United States from the disastrous U.N. Paris climate treaty and reclaim its sovereign right to set its own energy policy,” said Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, who also led Trump’s environmental transition team in setting the stage for the regulatory reforms the Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken under Trump. “This is a great day for America, particularly for the future economic success and security of countless Americans. CEI congratulates President Trump for keeping his most important deregulatory campaign promise and looking out for the country’s best interests.”
Ultimately, America’s participation in the Paris agreement will be determined by the outcome of the 2020 election, because under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. withdrawal will not be final until the day after it is held. Should Trump win reelection, the withdrawal will almost certainly stick.
With each of the candidates for the Democrat presidential nomination having castigated Trump for leaving the Paris climate agreement, and having vowed to have the United States rejoin it, a Democrat presidential victory almost certainly means the United States will cede its sovereignty once again to international bureaucrats at the U.N. As if that prospect were not already alarming enough, the United States would almost certainly have to commit to steeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions than the Obama administration agreed to in 2015, in order to rejoin.
The Paris climate agreement was awful for the United States. Paris 2.0 would undoubtedly be much more damaging.
Dr H. Sterling Burnett is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.