The Paris Climate Accord and Why the U.S. Withdrew
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
By Carol Queiroz
Image via Simon Mainwaring
On June 1, 2017, former United States President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States would no longer be participating in the Paris Climate Accord of 2015. Environmental activists throughout the nation were shocked, as this accord brought countries together to combat climate change and find a way to make the world greener. In April 2016, the United States first entered the agreement via executive order under the Obama Administration, the U.S. was set to contribute $3 Billion. Not only did pulling out of the deal roll back a major part of the previous administration’s environmental agenda, but an estimated 70% of registered voters in 2016 were in support of the accord, and wanted the U.S. to participate.
The Paris Climate Accord is a legally binding international treaty with around 196 countries of different economic status participating. The goal of this accord is to create the first global agreement to combat the climate change crisis and “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible” to achieve climate neutrality. The accord is also aiming to keep the world from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Each year, carbon emissions continue to rise, contributing to an increase in annual global temperatures. As NASA reports, there have already been measurable changes in precipitations and weather patterns creating stronger and longer-lasting natural disasters, an increase in droughts and heat waves, sea levels are expected to rise another 1-8 feet by 2100, and the Arctic will continue to melt, endangering an estimated 5,500 species inhabiting the arctic. The Paris Climate Accord uses the highest developed climate science available and each country works on progressively more complex action plans. These plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), are meant to be long term plans for lowering global greenhouse emissions. The Paris Agreement also has listed in its terms that starting in 2024, all participating countries will be required to have a transparent report on all measures being taken in their emissions reduction. In the five years the accord has been in place, The Paris Climate Agreement has started implementing great change in working towards a clearer word; However, there is still a long way to go.
In a White House news conference, Trump let the nation know that the United States would cease all forms of participation with the Paris Climate Accord. Yet when presenting the reasons for the decision, many became skeptical of the data and information the former president was using, seeing them as questionable. According to the New York Times, former President Trump was concerned the accord would be “job-killing” and affect many U.S. coal miners, saying it would “cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates.” Many environmental groups and activists rushed to correct this, as the report Trump was referencing was based on the hypothetical situation in which the U.S. industry had to reduce the country's overall emissions by nearly 40% in 20 years and not include other ways besides clean energy to do so. Plus, with the world encouraging greener energy and higher demand for it, solar energy has created thousands of American jobs and are beginning to outnumber coal jobs. As the 10th annual National Solar Jobs Census reports, around 250,000 people are working in the solar industry across all 50 states. Trump also claimed in his speech that the Paris Agreement, even when in full effect, would have little impact on combating climate change. According to Business Insider, Trump said "Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that, this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount." But U.S. participation in the accord would have a powerful effect, as it would contribute heavily to a global temperature increase of 3.3 degrees Celsius instead of 4.2 Celsius by 2100.
But as of January 20, 2021, President Joseph Biden has taken office and has made it a top priority for the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. On his first day in office, Biden signed dozens of executive orders in hopes of rolling back the damage of the previous Trump administration, one of the orders being to immediately rejoin the agreement. He does not need Senate support to rejoin the accord as it was always meant to be pursued by executive order. Biden has also ordered to block the Keystone pipeline and review over 100 environmental regulations that were diminished or put on hold by the Trump administration as part of Biden’s ambitious climate plan. The United States will be officially set to rejoin 30 days after the executive order was put into place.
Written by writer Carol Queiroz