On Tuesday, June 1, President Donald Trump fulfilled yet another campaign promise by announcing that the US was withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The goal of the historic pledge signed by 195 countries is to curb the use of fossil fuels to ensure that average global temperatures do not increase more than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. Environmentalists believe this is a critical threshold above which the planet could experience irreversible impacts, such as an unprecedented rise in sea levels and widespread plant and animal extinction.
The decision, though widely anticipated, was met with much dismay by most Americans and people worldwide. However, President Trump’s administration has always maintained that the environmental regulations imposed by the treaty cost American jobs and had a negative impact on consumers. They also believe it is “unfair” since other leading polluters like India and China are not required to cut back harmful emissions until 2030.
The President reaffirmed this belief on Tuesday, saying, “The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”
According to Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists that investigates and reports on climate change, America can exit the Paris agreement in one of three ways. The easiest option, of course, is to ignore the carbon reduction plan altogether and continue the use of fossil fuels with no regard to the environment. The US can also formally withdraw from the treaty. However, according to the rules stipulated in the Paris accord, this requires a three-year wait, which means that the country would be obliged to fulfill its commitments until November 2020. The most drastic choice involves withdrawing from the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which would automatically indicate that the US is abandoning the Paris accord as well. This option will also require a year to execute.
While there is no indication yet as to what the Trump administration plans to do, it is evident they will not lead the charge to curb the greenhouse gas emissions of the world’s second biggest polluter. However, that does not mean the fight will stop altogether. Shortly after the President announced his decision, 211 mayors representing 54 million Americans promised to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.” Since then, 12 more city mayors have joined the alliance and the number keeps growing daily.
In addition, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his counterparts in Washington (Jay Inslee), and California (Jerry Brown) have formed the “United States Climate Alliance” whose mission is to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs. The three Democratic governors pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between a quarter and a third by 2025. As of today, governors from Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have declared their support and promised to help achieve the goal. As Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott succinctly puts it, "Growing our economy and protecting our environment by supporting cleaner and more affordable energy and transportation choices can go together."