An Abdication of U.S. Leadership


Elections have consequences. In this case, the President of the United States has decided to join Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries that are not part of the Paris Climate Agreement. And while it might be popular with his base, it will not do anything to help U.S. workers or revive the American Dream.  What it will do is cede U.S. leadership on the clean energy revolution to China and other competitors, threaten our national security interests and constrain new business opportunities for U.S. companies.

This U-turn to placate the energy sources of the past stands in stark contrast with the current successes and future direction of our country. Already, nearly four times as many people work in solar as work in coal mining in the United States, and this gap is widening. Texas has installed over 20 gigawatts of clean, renewable wind energy. California has installed over 18 gigawatts of solar energy, creating over 100,000 jobs. The energy revolution is underway. Next will be tremendous advancements in battery storage and electric vehicles.

un-climate-action-twitter-picDespite this setback, we are heartened to see the commitment of the rest of the world to uphold the Paris Agreement, even without United States participation. Just last week, the European Union, China, and Canada ignored the U.S. and announced high level ministerial meetings to cement their cooperation on implementing the Paris Agreement. Germany, China and other countries are using their commitment to address climate change to promote new, sustainable technology, and create new market opportunities worldwide. The U.S.’s giant step back will be to the gain of China and others that continue to develop the technologies of tomorrow.

Trump’s action also ignores the real science and real impacts the U.S. is already experiencing from climate change. Severe weather and increased flooding is disrupting businesses and livelihoods from Florida to across the Midwest. Melting permafrost is changing the landscape in Alaska. Historic droughts in California and more frequent heat waves threaten not only farmers but also put the sick and elderly at health risk. And this is not to mention the expected increase in refugees as similar patterns impact other countries that are less able to adapt to changing conditions.

We should note that this announcement itself does not withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. The earliest that a Party can provide notice that it intends to withdraw from this Agreement is three years from the date of entry into force of the Agreement, and the withdrawal would take effect one year from this date. As the Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016, the earliest date for the US withdrawal to take effect would be November 4, 2020. Coincidentally, that date happens to be one day after the next US Presidential election.  Hopefully that election will have consequences as well.

The Center for Clean Air Policy will continue to act, both domestically and internationally, to support efforts by countries and private sector interests to define cost-effective policies and measures and expand investments in the low carbon solutions vitally needed to keep global temperatures in a safe range.