Energy & Environment

US officially exits Paris climate accord

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Members of the German Greens Party (Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen), including party co-heads Katrin Goering-Eckardt and Cem Oezdemir (C), protest outside the U.S. Embassy against the announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump the day before that he will pull the USA out of the Paris Agreement on June 2, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. 

The U.S. has officially left the Paris climate accord.

The withdrawal, set in motion by a letter from President Trump exactly one year ago, caps a long-promised move from the president and leaves the U.S. as the only country in the world to withdraw from the landmark climate agreement.

Trump campaigned on leaving the accord and announced that he was doing so far before the parameters of the agreement allowed.

“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, 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,” Trump said at a speech in the Rose Garden in June 2017.

The move was celebrated by many in Republican circles, even as Democrats and environmentalists lament the implications the U.S. exit will have for the climate and the American economy.

“The decision to exit the Paris Agreement leaves the United States globally isolated in its defiance of scientific realities, and causes real harm to people, the planet and the economy. However, the nearly 200 other nations of the world will continue moving full steam ahead toward realizing the goals of the agreement,” the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.

“The United States is the second largest emitter of carbon emissions from fossil fuels annually and the largest source of cumulative emissions to date,” it continued. “It’s well past time for our nation to pivot away from being part of the problem and toward contributing to a leading share of the solutions.”

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, however, said the deal “would have disadvantaged the U.S. economy and compromised American competitiveness.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris agreement on Day 1 in office if elected, a move that would leave the U.S. out of the deal for a little more than three months.

“I will bring us back into the Paris Agreement. I will put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change. And I will challenge everyone to up the ante on their climate commitments,” Biden said in a September speech on climate change as wildfires ravaged California.

Biden has already laid out some goals in his own climate plan. The electricity sector would go to net-zero emissions by 2035 — a timeline ahead of many of the efforts already underway in climate-conscious states.

More broadly, he said he is committed to net-zero emissions by 2050, a plan that would require mostly transitioning away from fossil fuels while promoting carbon capture technology that could store excess pollution.

Many cities and states have already tried to keep emissions reduction commitments in line with their share of the population.

“While withdrawal undercuts the USA ability to engage in the economy of the future, states and businesses in the U.S. are nonetheless plowing forward with clean technologies and new business practices,” said David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute.

“Withdrawal from Paris is like trying to run down an up escalator.” 

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