Policy director says lack of US leadership has hindered climate change progress in 'big' way

Policy director Jake Schmidt said Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement last year has hindered progress on climate change in a "big" way, citing a lack of political pressure on other countries like China to step up their efforts. 

“How much is progress hindered by the fact that the U.S. backed out?” Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball asked Schmidt, who is the managing director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Big — countries continue to move forward, but I think the last ... two years of the Obama administration we saw the power of U.S. leadership in the sense that the U.S. signed an agreement with China to get them to peak their CO2 emissions for the first time in history and we lost that political pressure,” Schmidt said.

“It does make a big difference when the president of the United States calls up a leader and says, ‘Hey, can we do something on this, can we move forward’; that goes a long way,” he continued.

Schmidt added that while other countries like China and India have showed a willingness to step up and try to “carry the mantle of U.S. leadership,” he argued that there’s a limit to how much there can be done without the U.S. backing the resolution.

“Clearly I think both of the countries have a lot more to do in terms of addressing their overconsumption on coal, that’s why you’re seeing, I think, signs of them moving in the right direction but clearly both of them need to step up their efforts,” he told Hill.TV.

Nearly 200 countries have agreed to keep the Paris climate agreement alive by adopting a detailed set of rules to implement the pact. The requirements include uniform standards for measuring emissions, a clarified process to help countries to get back on track and a renewed call to cut emissions before talks take place again in two years. The U.S. participated in a recent United Nations climate change global conference discussing the terms of the agreement, but negotiations were filled with turmoil.

Still, the U.S. agreed to the pact, even though President Trump vowed to abandoned it in June 2017. The U.S. can't formally withdraw from the agreement until 2020. 

— Tess Bonn