The United States will start the process of formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement this afternoon, walking away from a deal that took more than two decades to make and that virtually every other nation on Earth still supports.
The withdrawal letter will travel from the State Department to the United Nations. That will start the clock ticking on a one-year waiting period that ends with the United States exiting the deal on 4 November 2020—1 day after Americans head to the polls to choose a president.
Today's move has been expected ever since President Donald Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden on 1 June 2017, and blasted the global climate pact as a bad trade deal for the United States.
Bowing to global pressure to remain in the deal, he said, would have restricted the U.S. economy and resource development and given foreign competitors a leg up.
"The Paris accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world," Trump said.
His words were decried by governments around the world, which criticized the United States for withdrawing and rejected Trump's suggestion that he might try to renegotiate the pact.
Nations including Syria, North Korea and Russia are now members of the Paris Agreement, which relies heavily on voluntary national commitments to meet its goals of maintaining a safe level of warming.
Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., said in a recent interview that the case for staying in Paris has only strengthened since Trump announced plans to withdraw.
"We know a lot more now than we did on June 1, 2017," he said.
Polls continue to show a growing gulf between Trump administration climate policies and U.S. public opinion (Climatewire, 13 September).
Wildfires underway in California and events such as 2017's catastrophic hurricane season have helped make climate change a front-of-mind issue for U.S. voters, in contrast to past years.
While a significant share of GOP voters say they support Paris, Republicans in the House of Representatives floated a resolution Friday backing Trump's withdrawal. It was supported by conservative organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks.
The resolution, introduced by Representatives Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), among others, is purely messaging that won't pass the Democratic House.
The chamber voted earlier this year to rejoin the agreement via H.R. 9, the "Climate Action Now Act," and staying in Paris is one of the few climate policies that virtually every congressional Democrat can agree on.
But it's nonetheless a signal of support from backers of the fossil fuel industry and some of President Trump's biggest fans in Washington, D.C.
"The Paris Agreement prioritized international virtue signaling over the concerns of American families, seeking to hobble the American economy with unnecessary regulations and higher energy costs," Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "Rep. Arrington's resolution would correct that error and return focus to domestic economic prosperity."
Some observers expected U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft to send the letter withdrawing from Paris because her predecessor, Nikki Haley, in 2017 signed a letter reaffirming U.S. plans to leave after Trump's Rose Garden speech.
Craft, a Trump donor and the wife of coal magnate and Alliance Resource Partners CEO Joseph Craft III, has recused herself from coal-related issues at the United Nations due to her family's deep ties to the industry. She hasn't specified whether that extends to climate change.
Democrats have demanded that she recuse herself from business related to the Paris Agreement (E&E News PM, 1 November). But it's not clear that by not sending the Paris withdrawal letter that's what she's doing. The State Department shares jurisdiction over U.N.-related policy actions.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2019. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net