Up until very recently, every country in the world except for Syria and Nicaragua had signed the Paris climate accord, an agreement designed to curb emissions and keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius.
As of June 1st, the United States became the third nation not to be a part of the agreement following an announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump. The accord, Trump said, put America at an economic disadvantage. He did say, though, that he’d consider renegotiating a deal that’s better for America.
As Trump’s announcement sent shockwaves around the world, some began wondering if the U.S. withdrawal would have the impact Trump wants or, if not, what those impacts would be.
Impact on Accord
The evidence suggests that the climate deal will continue on as scheduled, just without the United States. World leaders have spoken out since Trump’s announcement, reaffirming their commitment to the agreement.
In the absence of the U.S., other countries will have to step up and take leadership roles. It remains to be seen how exactly this will work out, but there has been a lot of talk about the role of China, the world’s largest polluter, and leaders in Europe have been quite outspoken about the agreement.
It does stand to reason, though, that the accord will be less effective without the U.S., the world’s second largest emitter and a country with one of the highest per capita rates as well.
Impact on Climate
The main point of the Paris agreement was to reduce the rate of global warming, and the exit of the world’s second worst emitter is not a good sign for the climate.
The good news for the environment, however, is that market forces will likely still cause America’s emissions to decline. The cost-effectiveness of natural gas and renewables are leading to more widespread adoption of cleaner energy. It will probably be a few years before we really feel the effects of Trump’s new climate policies as well, so there’s also a chance we’ll have a new deal by then or a new president coming up in the near future.
President Obama set a goal of reducing U.S. emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels. The country was unlikely to meet the goal with his policies and even less so with Trump’s. The President’s new policies and market forces may cause a 15% to 17% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.
Impact on Economy
Trump’s main proclaimed reason for pulling out the accord was an economic one. The agreement, he said, was unfair to the U.S. and would harm the average American worker.
Trump reportedly believes that pulling out of the deal will help the U.S. economy and, while it will save the country a bit of money, many analysts and business leaders have expressed the opposite view and asked Trump to stay in the agreement.
Many believe that natural gas and renewables are likely to continue edging out coal. Leaving the deal could also hurt the U.S. diplomatically and its trade relations with other countries. It could also give other nations an advantage when it comes to becoming leaders in the renewable energy business.
Response Within the U.S.
Although Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, a number of states, cities and businesses have pledged to continue to uphold it.
The governors of the California, New York and other states have said they will work together to continue to reduce their emissions. The mayors of 211 U.S. cities have signed a pledge to uphold the agreement on the local level. Businesses, too, such as Exxon Mobil, Amazon and Nike have expressed their support for the agreement.
It’s difficult to know exactly what impact the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord will have, especially since the U.S. can’t actually leave it until 2020, according to the terms of the agreement. While some voters were happy that Trump fulfilled his campaign promise, many others have vowed to continue to do their best to uphold the accord.
One thing is for sure. Trump’s big announcement got everyone talking about climate change, as well as international relations, and inspired a number of individuals, business and governments to step up and take on a new role in leading the conversation.
Kate Harveston is a political commentator and blogger. She blogs at onlyslightlybiased.com