WASHINGTON — President Trump said Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gases because it would cost American jobs, but he added a signature Trump condition: that he would be willing to renegotiate the agreement on more favorable terms.
“I don’t want anything to get in our way. I am fighting every day for the great people of our country. Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” he said.
But he quickly added a caveat that the United States would also seek to re-enter the agreement — or some other treaty — on terms that were more favorable to American workers. “So were getting out, but we'll start to negotiate, and well see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” he said.
Roopali Phadke, a Macalester College professor of environmental sciences, said the president's decision didn't surprise her given the recent press coverage and his previous statements. But Phadke said she was taken aback by the language he used to explain his decision.
"He suggested that the basis of the Paris agreement suggested that China and India could put the US at an economic disadvantage," Phadke said. "And that’s surprising to me, because that’s rhetoric from 20 years ago."
Phadke took a group of Macalester students to Paris for the final negotiations in 2015, because she wanted to have a front row seat to international policy being created and how multilateral diplomacy works.
"We got to watch our climate negotiators at work, and they held meetings and press conferences with visitors and stakeholders, and they got to explain what was in it for the US," Phadke explained.
"And I left Paris incredibly proud of what they were able to accomplish. It’s a pragmatic treaty. It is not one that penalizes the U-S, and there was very little required of the US."
President Trump called the $500 million US contribution to the global green climate fund "a vast fortune" in US. resources. Phadke said that's a relatively small commitment, considering the size of the US economy and the larger goals at stake.
She also pointed out that many utilities, are increasingly relying on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar because those clean options are now making more sense to them from an economic standpoint compared to coal and other fossil fuels.
“The U.S. should not pull out of the climate change agreement signed by 195 nations. Minnesota was recently ranked as one of the top ten states in the country for clean energy -- so our state knows how important this is. If the United States cedes its leadership on clean energy by backing out of the Paris climate agreement, it will hurt our ability to compete in the 21st century global economy. Plus, as military and security experts have reminded us, climate change is a threat to our national security, increasing risks of conflict, humanitarian crises, and damage to critical infrastructure. We need to keep building on the progress we've made to combat climate change and boost clean energy, not roll it back.” -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Trump complained that other countries had attached too many conditions to their voluntary agreements to reduce carbon emissions. China, for example, said it would begin reducing emissions in 2030 — meaning they could continue to build coal-fired power plants every year until then. “In short, the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just takes coal jobs out of the United States and ship them to other countries,” he said.
“President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a catastrophic mistake that puts the short-sighted interests of his friends in the fossil fuel industry ahead of the safety and security of American people and the future of our planet. The Paris climate agreement brought together virtually the entire world—195 countries—to recognize the basic fact that climate change is a real, man-made, existential threat to the planet that demands broad international action. We don’t have time to turn our backs on the rest of the world and bury our heads in the sand. We must address climate change now. The stakes are too high and the consequences too devastating to kick this problem down the road to future generations. Make no mistake, President Trump is not only ignoring scientific consensus—he’s putting our children and grandchildren at risk, weakening our economy, and undermining America’s credibility and leadership around the world. I call on President Trump to immediately reverse this terrible decision.” -- Sen. Al Franken
Trump cast the decision in terms of his campaign promise to put America First, reasserting American sovereignty and rebuffing an attempt by the rest of the world to take advantage of the United States.
“At what point do they stop laughing at us as a country?” he said. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Trump said the deal amounted to a "self-inflicted, major economic wound” for the United States.
He downplayed the impact of carbon reductions to the environment, saying the plan would only result in a few degrees’ difference by the year 2100 — gains that could be wiped out by increased emissions by China.
“Over recent years, it has been made clear that a one-size-fits-all carbon emission reduction policy simply won’t cut it in this country. Thankfully, Minnesota has already taken great strides in addressing this issue and has recently reduced emissions by nearly 15 percent over ten years.Minnesota is continuing its efforts of reducing carbon emissions, including steps taken by a coal fired power plant in my district to convert to natural gas. These actions will not only help to lower our overall emission levels but it will also keep jobs in the area and provide Minnesotans with affordable and responsible energy options. I support states implementing changes to do what works for them to reform our energy system with environmentally friendly policies that maintain our beautiful land and streams for future generations, while still allowing for maximum economic benefit.” -- Congressman Tom Emmer
Trump made the long-awaited announcement in the White House Rose Garden, the same place where President Obama hailed the agreement last year as "a turning point for our planet."
"Today, the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Pulling the United States out of this global agreement will undermine our position in one of the most important international efforts in human history, acting against the wishes of the majority of American people, environmental scientists, and the largest fossil fuel companies. The Paris climate deal gave us a fighting chance to protect our planet from the worst impacts of climate change. President Trump’s disappointing decision will decimate our environment, our economy, and our booming renewable energy industry. Climate change is impacting Americans today. Record-breaking floods, heat waves, droughts, and health impacts have become the new norm. This move is not only shortsighted but malicious. The United States will now join Nicaragua and Syria as the only three nations not in the accord. I urge leaders of the other nations in the Paris climate accords to honor their commitments. We must continue to fight against the Trump administration and the Republican party's assault on the environment and renewable energy, and let President Trump know that climate change is an issue that demands a strong global agreement." -- Congressman Keith Ellison
With typical Trumpian flair for building suspense, the president had announced his announcement via Twitter, saying "I will be announcing my decision on Paris Accord, Thursday at 3:00 P.M. The White House Rose Garden. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"
The 197-member climate agreement requires every country to establish ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gasses. But those targets are largely voluntary, and Trump has already made clear that he views environmental regulations as an obstacle to his goal of creating jobs and ensuring energy independence.
Still, the rest of the world was watching to see how far Trump will go in backing out of the accord. By leaving open the possibility of re-entering the agreement, he ended up on the more moderate end of the range of options the White House had been exploring.
Addressing climate change is the great challenge of our time & @POTUS decision to withdraw from Paris Accords is a setback for all humankind— US Rep. Rick Nolan (@USRepRickNolan) June 1, 2017
Trump had said he's been lobbied heavily by both sides on the climate agreement. On one side is the economic nationalist wing of his White House, advisers such as Steve Bannon who have called climate change a "manufactured crisis" and who once urged "good global warming skeptics" to leave all the lights in their house on in order to protest the Paris talks.
“Over recent years, it has been made clear that a one-size-fits-all carbon emission reduction policy simply won’t cut it in this country. Thankfully, Minnesota has already taken great strides in addressing this issue and has recently reduced emissions by nearly 15 percent over ten years. I support states implementing changes to do what works for them to reform our energy system with environmentally friendly policies that maintain our beautiful land and streams for future generations, while still allowing for maximum economic benefit.” -- Rep. Tom Emmer
The decision makes good on a campaign promise to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” But Trump has also been known to change his mind, as he did in April with the North American Free Trade Agreement. After anonymous White House officials signaled for days that Trump would withdraw from the trade agreement, the leaders of Canada and Mexico ultimately persuaded him to renegotiate.
Trump's decision came less than a week after he met with world leaders in Sicily, where closed-door discussions included pleas for the United States to stick to the consensus agreed to in Paris in 2015 and consummated last year.
In a separate meeting with Pope Francis last week, the pontiff presented Trump with a gift — a copy of his two-year-old encyclical on climate change known as Laudato Si. Francis, who argues that care of God's creation is part of the church's larger concern for the poor, encouraged "continued participation,” in the climate agreement.
Trump said he hoped to continue American leadership on the environment, but make sure that “the burdens are equally shared among the many nations all around the world.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the earliest a nation can formally withdraw is November 2020 — the same month Trump will run for re-election
Obama had framed the agreement as a key test of American leadership in the world, and issued a fiery statement even before Trump finished his announcement.
"The nations that remain in the Paris agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created," Obama said in a statement Thursday. "I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the planet we've got."