President Donald Trump said Thursday that the United States plans to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement but start talks to re-enter the accord with a more “fair” deal.
The decision sets the world’s largest economy apart from almost all other nations on earth, and moves in opposition to many large American companies as well. Always a showman, Trump announced the decision in a heavily-teased and anticipated event at the White House Rose Garden.
“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers,” Trump said.
“So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can that’s great, and if we can’t that’s fine.”
Trump and many of his allies have long dubbed the Paris Agreement a “bad deal” for America. They say it forces the United States to make immediate sacrifices that will hurt the economy, while other countries such as China are allowed to put off action until later.
Trump said Thursday that the withdrawal keeps a campaign promise and looks out for American workers. The White House contends that the U.S. has already reduced its carbon dioxide emissions and does not need the Paris accord to cut them even more, according to talking points obtained by CNBC.
The Trump administration also says the deal was negotiated badly and the U.S. would have faced unrealistic targets.
More than two decades of climate diplomacy produced the Paris Agreement in December 2015. The treaty is designed to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The accord requires the 195 signatories — nearly every country in the world — to create national plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Syria and Nicaragua are the only countries in the U.N. group that are not signatories.
Under President Barack Obama, the United States committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Obama administration also pledged $3 billion to a fund established to help developing nations meet their Paris Agreement goals, the largest donation announced to date.
Trump cannot technically pull out of the agreement until November 2019, and the U.S. must give a year’s notice before it can withdraw, according to reports. So a withdrawal may not take effect until 2020, though mechanisms exist to possibly speed the process.
Trump and Republicans were already chipping away at the Paris Agreement.
In his first 100 days in office, Trump sought to undermine many of the Obama-era policies that would allow the United States to meet its commitments to the accord. He has set in motion the repeal of Obama’s signature plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, teed up a potential easing of automobile fuel efficiency standards, and rescinded a host of other energy industry regulations and guidelines in a bid to increase fossil fuel production.
A number of large American companies were among those advocating for staying in the Paris Agreement, including U.S. energy giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron and their European peers Royal Dutch Shell and BP. The oil majors say the accord offers a framework for tackling global warming and gives the United States a role in steering the global response to climate change.
To be sure, these companies are big players in natural gas development and stood to benefit from Obama-era regulations that have already expedited the retirement of some coal-fired plants and would likely continue that trend.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk — a Paris deal proponent whose company also benefits from a shift to renewable energy sources — even threatened to leave three White House advisory councils if Trump withdrew from the agreement. CEOs of companies like Apple and Microsoft, among many others, have also pushed Trump to uphold the agreement.
The issue had reportedly split the Trump administration into “stay” and “leave” camps. The two sides had quibbled over whether language in the text of the Paris Agreement allowed the United States to reduce its commitment.
The stay camp included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, as well as Trump’s daughter and assistant Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior advisor. They argued Trump has the authority to revise the country’s contributions to make them less ambitious.
The leave camp was led by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. They maintained that the Paris Agreement only allowed for an upward revision of a signatory’s commitments and efforts to walk back U.S. goals could lead to legal challenges by environmentalists.
A group of top Republican senators including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also urged Trump to withdraw from the agreement.
Trump telegraphed his decision at the G-7 summit last weekend by refusing to endorse the Paris Agreement.
— CNBC’s Ylan Mui contributed to this report
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