Why U.S. Paris Accord Dropout Won’t Kill Climate Pact
Global leaders vowed to press ahead with the Paris climate accord after Donald Trump pulled the world’s biggest economy out of the pact, and Europe’s heavy hitters rebuffed the American president’s suggestion that it could be renegotiated.
Trump said he’ll seek a better deal because the 2015 agreement isn’t fair to the U.S., which will now join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not participating in it. Meanwhile, from China to Chile, leaders doubled down on their Paris commitments rather than follow in Trump’s footsteps — widening a gulf between America and the rest of the world already on display at the Group of Seven’s weekend meetings.
Germany, France and Italy said they regret Trump’s withdrawal from the accord and won’t be part of his effort to change it. “We firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the three governments said in a joint statement. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address that “the U.S. has turned its back on the world,” and called on American climate researchers and engineers to come and work in France. “Make our planet great again,” Macron said.
In the run-up to his announcement Thursday, Trump was unswayed by calls from other governments, the Pope, his daughter Ivanka, and corporate leaders like Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, to stick with the climate deal. During and after Trump’s speech, similar reactions started pouring in worldwide.
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and head of an informal network of more than 90 major world cities, said America is making a “dramatic mistake” just two years after it played a key role in getting the climate deal agreed.
Business leaders who’d pushed for the U.S. to stay in the accord said they’ll keep up the fight against climate change. General Electric Co.’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, said on Twitter that he’s “disappointed” by Trump’s decision, and that “industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., tweeted that withdrawal from Paris is “a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.” Musk, creator of the electric car-maker Tesla and an icon of the clean-energy movement, said Thursday he’ll stand down from two White House advisory councils after the president’s decision.
Earlier, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said his country would stick to the accord. Li appeared alongside Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who’s a leading figure in the pushback against Trump.
‘Can’t Stop Progress’
Whatever the commitment of other countries to carry on, the U.S. pullout puts a large dent into the effectiveness of an international deal that was years in the making. America is the second-biggest greenhouse-gas polluter after China, accounting for 12 percent of global emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.
Trump’s fellow G-7 leaders pressed him over the weekend to stay in the accord, and separately confirmed their own support for Paris. “We have made very clear that we are not moving away from our positions,” Merkel said.
Canada is among those to acknowledge the agreement would be weakened by the departure of the U.S., but it’s nonetheless pressing ahead. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke with Trump on Thursday, “expressed his disappointment with the president’s decision and also conveyed Canada’s continued commitment to working internationally to address climate change,” according to his office. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters that the American withdrawal is unfortunate “‘but you can’t stop progress.”
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also pledged support for the agreement in a state-of-the-nation speech to congress in Valparaiso Thursday. Brazil’s foreign and environment ministries expressed “profound concern and disappointment” at the U.S. announcement, saying the steps agreed to in Paris are “an irreversible process that cannot be postponed and is compatible with economic growth.”
The African Union, comprising all the continent’s 55 nations, published a statement committing to the Paris targets.
‘Not Too Late’
It took 21 meetings among 190-odd nations to finally reach the global deal. Participants agreed to set numerical goals to limit their carbon emissions, though adherence is voluntary and there are no sanctions for failure. The aim is to rein in warming levels since industrialization to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Trump’s withdrawal will take until November 2020 to unfold — creating an opening for him to reverse course, and potentially making it an issue in the next presidential election.
For some leaders, the climate threat is imminent enough to make such delays dangerous. Hilda Heine is president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Most of her country is less than 3 meters (10 feet) above sea-level. It’s already experienced coastal erosion and an increase in flooding.
“Today’s decision will have grave impacts,” Heine said after Trump’s announcement. “It’s not too late to act.”
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