The Long- and Short-Term Impacts of Pulling Out of Paris

Trump’s withdrawal from the climate-change pact could spark economic retaliation.

President Trump announces the U.S.'s withdrawal from the Paris climate-change accord in the Rose Garden on Thursday.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
Jason Plautz
June 1, 2017, 5:45 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Trump’s de­cision to exit the Par­is cli­mate-change agree­ment sets in mo­tion a years-long pro­cess that won’t be fi­nal un­til 2020. But the dip­lo­mat­ic im­pacts could be felt much earli­er.

Ar­guing that the deal is “very un­fair at the highest level to the United States,” Trump said he would exit or try to rene­go­ti­ate an agree­ment. The White House said it would fol­low Art­icle 28 of the agree­ment, which says a coun­try can only ap­ply to exit three years after the deal takes force and must give parties one year of no­tice.

That would put the date of the U.S. exit on Nov. 4, 2020, four years after the agree­ment went in­to force.

The White House could have ex­ited the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change, the Sen­ate-rat­i­fied treaty that un­der­lies the Par­is agree­ment, a more ex­treme step that would have taken only a year. In­stead, Trump picked a path that makes it pos­sible for a fu­ture pres­id­ent to reenter the Par­is deal, and the tim­ing of the exit also places it squarely in the spot­light of the 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

Echo­ing his rhet­or­ic on trade deals, Trump said that the U.S. would seek to “rene­go­ti­ate” the agree­ment “un­der a frame­work that is fair and where bur­dens and re­spons­ib­il­it­ies are equally shared.” The prom­ise was un­der­cut slightly with the ad­di­tion, “if we can’t, that’s fine.”

The ori­gin­al agree­ment was vol­un­tary—the deal it­self does not com­pel any coun­try to take ac­tion, nor does it con­tain any pun­ish­ment for coun­tries that don’t meet their prom­ised emis­sion cuts (al­though ne­go­ti­at­ors are work­ing to add teeth to the agree­ment over the next few years).

It’s un­clear what a rene­go­ti­ation could mean, or how the 194 oth­er na­tions would par­ti­cip­ate in such a dis­cus­sion. With­in hours of Trump’s an­nounce­ment, France, Ger­many, and Italy is­sued a joint state­ment say­ing the agree­ment could not be rene­go­ti­ated and that it is “a vi­tal in­stru­ment for our plan­et, so­ci­et­ies and eco­nom­ies.”

A seni­or White House of­fi­cial did not of­fer any de­tails on what a bet­ter deal might look like, say­ing “that’s up to the pres­id­ent.” As to wheth­er al­lies would want to par­ti­cip­ate, the of­fi­cial said, “There’s no ques­tion that oth­er coun­tries … are go­ing to want to sit down with us and talk about the po­ten­tial way for­ward.”

Either way, the White House is step­ping away from the policies that formed the back­bone of the U.S. com­mit­ment to cut emis­sions by 25 to 27 per­cent be­low 2005 levels by 2025 through a series of do­mest­ic policies like emis­sions cuts to power plants and in­creased fuel-eco­nomy stand­ards for vehicles. Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has put the brakes on those policies, al­though the mar­ket has already been mov­ing away from coal in fa­vor of clean­er-burn­ing nat­ur­al gas and re­new­able en­ergy.

Trump said the de­cision was made in or­der to pro­tect Amer­ic­an in­dus­tries, cit­ing a NERA Con­sult­ing re­port that the ac­cord would cost the U.S. eco­nomy $3 tril­lion, with spe­cif­ic im­pacts on coal and man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors. That study found far more drastic im­pacts than oth­er aca­dem­ic re­search on ad­dress­ing glob­al warm­ing, and it’s un­clear what the Par­is agree­ment on its own would do to the coal in­dustry.

Even some coal com­pan­ies had urged Trump to stay in the agree­ment, say­ing it would be­ne­fit re­search for so-called clean-coal tech­no­logy.

While the pro­cess will take years, ex­perts say the in­ter­na­tion­al im­pact of the de­cision could be felt much earli­er. Coun­tries have in­creas­ingly made cli­mate change a high-level is­sue, and the Par­is agree­ment—which sought to lim­it tem­per­at­ure in­creases to 1.5 de­grees C above pre-in­dus­tri­al levels—was the center­piece of that dis­cus­sion.

Former Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said in a state­ment that the exit could be “the most self-de­feat­ing ac­tion in Amer­ic­an his­tory,” warn­ing that it would be a “glob­al stain on our cred­ib­il­ity.”

Stay­ing out would make the U.S. one of only three na­tions—along with Syr­ia and Nicaragua —not in the agree­ment, al­though Rus­sia has also not rat­i­fied it (Nicaragua did not join be­cause it felt the deal was not strong enough). That puts the U.S. out of step with ma­jor al­lies, a stance that could have ripple ef­fects on oth­er for­eign policy is­sues.

After the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion re­jec­ted the Kyoto pro­tocol on glob­al warm­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said they were sur­prised at the dip­lo­mat­ic re­sponse. In a 2002 in­ter­view, then-Sec­ret­ary of State Colin Pow­ell told The New York Times that the blow­back “was a sober­ing ex­per­i­ence that everything the Amer­ic­an pres­id­ent does has in­ter­na­tion­al re­per­cus­sions.”

The Kyoto ac­tion also threw a wrench in in­ter­na­tion­al cli­mate talks by tak­ing the world’s largest emit­ter away from the table. A more act­ive U.S. un­der Pres­id­ent Obama was cru­cial to re­shap­ing the co­oper­a­tion that led to Par­is, but it ap­pears that the U.S. with­draw­al won’t col­lapse the agree­ment. China, In­dia, and the European Uni­on—three of the world’s four largest emit­ters be­sides the U.S.—have all com­mit­ted to mak­ing the agree­ment work.

China and the European Uni­on will also meet Fri­day to dis­cuss cli­mate change, among oth­er top­ics, and will is­sue a res­ol­u­tion sup­port­ing the Par­is agree­ment, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

More dir­ectly, some coun­tries could even re­spond with eco­nom­ic meas­ures; former French Pres­id­ent Nic­olas Sarkozy said he’d de­mand that Europe put a car­bon tax on all products com­ing from the United States.

An­drew Steer, the pres­id­ent of the World Re­sources In­sti­tute, told re­port­ers that while coun­tries don’t have the right to im­pose in­di­vidu­al tar­iffs, they might at least ex­plore some kind of eco­nom­ic re­sponse. That in­cludes the pos­sib­il­ity that Amer­ic­an cor­por­a­tions could be blocked from pro­jects fun­ded un­der a United Na­tions cli­mate fund to which Trump has said the U.S. will not con­trib­ute.

“If you are 194 coun­tries, and you be­lieve that this is one of the greatest chal­lenges fa­cing civil­iz­a­tion in the last sev­er­al hun­dred years, and there are three coun­tries that say you couldn’t care less about this … I wouldn’t be at all sur­prised if we start see­ing some pretty mus­cu­lar activ­ity,” Steer said.

What We're Following See More »
VICTORY FOR GUN RIGHTS ADVOCATES
Appeals Court Block D.C. Gun Control Law
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday blocked a gun regulation in Washington, D.C., that limited the right to carry a handgun in public to those with a special need for self-defense, handing a victory to gun rights advocates. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's 2-1 ruling struck down the local government's third major attempt in 40 years to limit handgun rights, citing what it said was scant but clear guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court on the right to bear arms."

Source:
MAY RETURN FOR HEALTH CARE VOTE
House Plans to Recess on Friday
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS
WILL TESTIFY WEDNESDAY
Manafort Subpoenaed by Judiciary Committee
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed Paul Manafort to appear publicly before the committee on Wednesday. Committee leaders Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday that they had subpoenaed Manafort on Monday night."

Source:
IN PERSIAN GULF
US Navy Ship Fired Warning Shots at Iranian Boat
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A US Navy ship fired warning shots at an armed Iranian patrol boat Tuesday in the northern end of the Persian Gulf, according to two US defense officials. The Iranian boat is believed to have been operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a defense official familiar with details of the incident. The officials said the Iranian boat approached and came within 150 yards of the US ship." The Iranian boat didn't respond to warnings. Fearing collision, the Navy ship fired warning shots into the water and then the Iranian ship stopped, but lingered in the area.

Source:
CRUZ SHOOTS IT DOWN
Trump Floats Cruz for AG
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is one prospect. But "in a statement released late Monday, Cruz said he is 'deeply gratified that we have a principled conservative like Jeff Sessions serving as Attorney General. The stories being reported in the media tonight are false. My focus is and will remain on fighting every day to defend 28 million Texans in the U.S. Senate.'"

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login