Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America’s interests.” President Donald Trump

By Chad Burchard | June 19, 2017

On Thursday, June 1, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. In a speech delivered at the White House Rose Garden, the president described the 2015 agreement as “very unfair” to the United States, criticizing it for subjecting Americans to “harsh economic restrictions,” while at the same time imposing “no meaningful obligations” on major polluting countries such as China and India.

“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries,” Trump declared, “leaving American workers—who I love—and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”

President Trump cited the impact that the accord would have on the U.S. coal industry as an example, stating, “while the current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America … China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants … India can double their coal production” and “[e]ven Europe is allowed to continue construction of coal plants.”

Trump noted that, “[t]he rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement,” but said it was “for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.” He emphasized he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” and added that his decision to withdraw from the accord was consistent with his campaign pledge to “exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America’s interests.”

The president also said he was withdrawing from the accord to protect America’s sovereignty, stating that “[i]t would once have been unthinkable that an international agreement could prevent the United States from conducting its own economic affairs.”

Trump stressed his commitment to protecting the environment, however, and said he was willing to work with Democrats “to either negotiate our way back into Paris, under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers, or to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers.”

Many world leaders were quick to voice their disagreement with President Trump’s decision. French President Emmanuel Macron called it a “mistake, both for the United States and the planet,” and issued an invitation: “To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision by the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland.” [French President Excoriates Trump in English Over Withdrawal from Climate Deal, Mark Abadi, Business Insider, June 1, 2017]

There was also considerable criticism at home. Former President Barak Obama issued a statement expressing his view: “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created” and “even in the absence of American leadership … I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way.” [Obama’s Harsh Words for Trump after Paris Withdrawal, Peter Holley, The Washington Post, June 1, 2017]

However, there was praise for the president’s decision as well. “By withdrawing from this unattainable mandate, President Trump has reiterated his commitment to protecting middle class families across the country and workers throughout coal country from higher energy prices and potential job loss,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a statement. [McConnell Statement on President’s Decision to Withdraw from the Unattainable Mandates of the Paris Climate Deal, June 1, 2017]

Under the terms of the Paris Accord, a country cannot withdraw for at least four years. Michael Catanzaro, an energy policy advisor at the White House, has said that the U.S. will abide by this process. [Official: Trump Will Look For Better Climate Deal in Four-Year Process, John Siciliano, Washington Examiner, June 1, 2017]

The Paris Accord thus has the potential to be a major issue during the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.

Chad Burchard earned his B.A. and J.D. from Vanderbilt University. He is a lawyer and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis, of the conservative on-line journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.