Donald Trump has announced that the U.S. is going to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
What Is the Paris Climate Agreement?
The agreement aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of decades. To do that, it envisions a series of measures including shutting down existing power plants, restricting construction of new fossil fuel mining facilities and raising the taxes on existing ones. This would lead to rising energy prices for American consumers — something that their German counterparts have already experienced — and to a huge cutback of jobs in the sector.
Was This Unexpected?
On one hand, the president’s stand shouldn’t be a surprise. In the last year and a half, Trump has talked numerous times about the importance of the United States’ energy independence and the creation of more jobs. He has also pointed at the Paris Climate Agreement as detrimental to the national interests of the country.
On the other hand, the president has already turned his back on other campaign promises, such as launching an investigation against Hillary Clinton and refusing to engage in any way with the Syrian conflict. Second, when it comes to climate regulations, the Republicans after Reagan have a record of not touching existing directives and binding agreements while they are in power, despite their skepticism about global warming and climate change.
What Is the Impact of Trump’s Decision To Withdraw the U.S. from the Cimate Agreement? Is This a Catastrophe?
No, it isn’t. The president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, using advanced climate prediction models provided by the United Nations, calculated that if the U.S. follows the Paris agreement regulations, it will be valid, not only for the next 14 years, but even by the end of the century, that following the regulations will help reduce global warming by 0.023 degrees Fahrenheit, or, converted in years, it will slow down global warming by eight months within the next 100 years.
Why Is Trump Withdrawing from the Agreement?
Aside from saving an estimated $1 trillion to $2 trillion per year, which will have a limited impact on the environment, facilitating the creation of new jobs and securing lower energy prices, Trump is on a diplomatic mission. The Paris Climate Agreement is an international treaty; there are no sanctions that bind the parties to its standards the way national and European Union laws do. If he doesn’t like it, Trump could simply stop working with Congress on adopting rules and regulations that will support the goals of the agreement. There is no need to announce his withdrawal publicly to confront other political leaders and to stir up the public opinion. He can simply pass it by.
The official fashion of the withdrawal doesn’t carry practical benefits. It carries diplomatic ones. The message sent aims to highlight the fact that international law is weak; it lacks sanctions and enforcement mechanisms, which leaves international agreements at the mercy of common trust, loyalty and goodwill.
The same European countries which are now deeply offended by the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement are not abiding with another international agreement — NATO. For years, these nations have not adhered to the agreed defense spending of 2 percent of the national gross domestic product, and thus, they break the common trust international law needs to function properly, and they give the United States a good reason to stop following its own responsibilities as well.
The message Trump sends is clear — international agreements and trust are a two-way street used by Europe for many years to move in only one direction.