The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations it will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA).
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a November 4 tweet the United States had filed formal paperwork to withdraw, citing an “unfair economic burden” on U.S. workers, businesses, and taxpayers.
The exit, announced the first day the government could start the process under the terms of the agreement, will become official on November 4, 2020, the day after the next presidential election.
The administration filed the paperwork a little over two years after President Donald Trump 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.
Putting America Before Paris
When Trump was running for president, he repeatedly called the PCA a bad deal for the United States, saying it would cost jobs and put the nation at a competitive disadvantage with other countries not required to restrict their energy use or make 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 event announcing his intention to withdraw from the agreement.
Reversing Obama’s Climate Policies
Former president Barack Obama signed the PCA in 2015, committing the United States to reducing emissions by 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Lacking enough support in the Senate to ratify the PCA, the Obama administration argued it was not a treaty needing Senate approval to be binding, but rather an executive agreement.
Obama then undertook a series of executive actions intended to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to meet the PCA commitments. These regulations included the Clean Power Plan (CPP) forcing states to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fueled electric power plants—essentially forcing states to close such plants and replace them primarily with wind and solar electric power facilities—and dramatically increasing the fuel economy mandate automakers must meet for their vehicles, which, if it had come into full effect, would have forced the public into smaller vehicles with less horsepower or electric cars.
In keeping with his 2017 withdrawal announcement and in the run-up to the administration filing the formal notice to withdraw, Trump has rolled back each of the Obama administration’s signature climate regulations, replacing the CPP with the Affordable Clean Energy rule and delaying and reducing the mandatory increase in fuel economy.
Emissions Declining Without Mandates
The Trump administration points out U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have declined without taxing carbon dioxide emissions and while loosening regulatory restrictions on fossil fuel development.
In his tweet announcing the United States had started the formal process of withdrawing from the PCA, Pompeo made it clear the action was in the United States’ best interests and would not stop America 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 fossils fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy,” Pompeo said. “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.”
The Paris Climate Agreement has loopholes that ensure it would not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and results in the United States show no treaty is needed to cut emissions, says climate scientist Patrick Michaels, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).
“The president was right to withdraw from the Paris Accord which is climatically meaningless, guaranteeing China will produce the lion’s share of carbon dioxide emissions for the foreseeable future,” Michaels said in a statement. “It should also be noted U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have dropped more than those from any other large industrialized nation since 2005.
“We didn’t have Paris in 2005, and we don’t need it now,” Michaels said.
Sovereignty, Economic Success
Withdrawing from the PCA is critical for U.S. sovereignty and continued economic success, says Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment.
“Secretary of State Pompeo has … 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 Ebell in a statement. “This is a great day for America, particularly for the future economic success and security of countless Americans.”
The PCA was unwise and would have been extremely costly, says E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., founder of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
“President Trump’s formal announcement November 4 that the United States will exit the Paris Climate Agreement was a great victory for common sense, good science, good economics, and good statesmanship,” said Beisner. “It’s what the Cornwall Alliance has advocated ever since President Obama unwisely signed onto it.
“Full implementation of the agreement through the end of this century, costing at least $70 trillion and more likely over $140 trillion, would, theoretically, lower global average temperature by at most 0.3˚F—too little to affect any ecosystem or human wellbeing,” Beisner said. “It’s no surprise the author of The Art of the Deal [Donald Trump] thinks paying $23.3 [trillion] to $46.6 trillion per tenth of a degree of temperature reduction is a bad deal.”
Deal Not Yet Sealed
Ultimately, U.S. participation in the PCA will be determined by the outcome of the 2020 election. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. withdrawal will not be final until the day after the election.
Should Trump be reelected president, the withdrawal will almost certainly stick.
With each of the candidates for the Democrat nomination for president having castigated Trump for withdrawing from the Paris agreement and having vowed to make the United States rejoin it should they become president, by contrast, a Democrat presidential victory almost certainly means the United States will rejoin the PCA.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.