US Announced Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement (2017)

On June 1, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.  His announcement began a multi-year process that will lead to the U.S. withdrawal taking effect on November 4, 2020, one day after the next presidential election.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris is lit in green to celebrate the Paris Climate Agreement (photo by Jean-Baptiste Gurliat, US Department of State)

            The Paris Climate Agreement was reached on December 12, 2015, when the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, voted in Paris to move together toward controlling global climate change.  The Paris Agreement seeks to reduce carbon emissions so that the average global temperature remains lower than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial-era average temperature.  The agreement commits all parties to this goal, but leaves the contributions made and techniques used to each individual country. The agreement came into force on November 4, 2016, when at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of global carbon emissions had ratified it.  Today, a total of 187 of the 197 original parties have ratified the agreement (learn more about the agreement here).

President Donald J. Trump (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

            In his June 1, 2017 statement, President Trump said, “As President, I have one obligation, and that obligation is to the American people.  The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks, and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.  It is time to exit the Paris Accord and time to pursue a new deal that protects the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country.”  At that time, the president said all federal actions to meet the terms of the agreement would cease.

            The actual withdrawal from the agreement, however, had to wait.  According to the agreement, parties could not state their intention to withdraw until three years after the agreement entered into force.  That occurred on November 4, 2019, and on that day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. was withdrawing: “Today the United States began the process to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Per the terms of the Agreement, the United States submitted formal notification of its withdrawal to the United Nations. The withdrawal will take effect one year from delivery of the notification.”

            The withdrawal represented a major step-back from U.S. federal leadership in the effort to confront climate change.  It did not, however, mean that the United States as a whole backed away from this challenge.  On the same day as the president’s announcement—June 1, 2017—several states announced that they would continue to follow the Paris Agreement’s principles.  Together they formed the organization “United States Climate Alliance.”  The alliance now includes 24 states and Puerto Rico as members, all committed to the Paris Agreement.  Nearly 150 U.S. cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have also committed to moving to 100% renewable energy, as have dozens of major corporations and energy companies.

            So, despite leadership from the top, the United States continues to confront the terrible specter of climate change and the massive economic and societal problems it will cause (and is causing).  All levels—state, local and individual citizens—remain convinced that fighting climate change is not a bad thing for our economy and citizens. Remember what Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

References:

Jaeger, Joel, Tom Cyrs and Kevin Kennedy.  2019.  As Trump Steps Away from Paris Climate Agreement, U.S. States, Cities and Businesses Step Up.  World Resources Institute, October 23, 2019.  https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/trump-steps-away-paris-climate-agreement-us-states-cities-and-businesses-step-up. Accessed February 13, 2020.

Kann, Drew.  2019.  US begins formal withdrawal from Paris climate accord.  CNN, November 4, 2019.  Available at:  https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/04/politics/trump-formal-withdrawal-paris-climate-agreement/index.html. Accessed February 13, 2020.

United Nations Climate Change.  What is the Paris Agreement.  Available at:  https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement.  Accessed February 13, 2020.

United States Climate Alliance.  About.  Available at:  http://www.usclimatealliance.org/about-us. Accessed February 13, 2020.

White House.  2017.  Statement by President Trump on the Paris Climate Accord.  June 1, 2017.  Available at:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord/. Accessed February 13, 2020.

This Month in Conservation

July 1
Duck Stamp Born (1934)
July 2
Morrill Act Created Land-Grant Universities (1862)
July 3
Great Auk Went Extinct (1844)
July 4
Stephen Mather, Founding Director of the National Park Service, Born (1867)
July 5
Yoshimaro Yamashina and Ernst Mayr, Ornithologists, Born (1900, 1904)
July 6
Maria Martin, Naturalist and Artist, Born (1796)
July 7
Alaska Admitted as a State (1958)
July 8
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July 9
Starbucks Abandoned Plastic Straws (2018)
July 10
Rainbow Warrior Bombed and sunk (1985)
July 11
World Population Day
July 12
Herbert Zim, Creator of “Golden Guides,” Born (1909)
July 13
Source of the Mississippi River Discovered (1832)
July 14
George Washington Carver National Monument Established (1943)
July 15
Emmeline Pankhurst, British Suffragette Leader, Born (1858)
July 16
UNESCO Added Giant Panda and Shark Sanctuaries to World Heritage List (2006)
July 17
Handel’s “Water Music” Premiered (1717)
July 18
Gilbert White, the “First Ecologist,” Born (1720)
July 19
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal, Created (1976)
July 20
Gregor Mendel, Pioneering Geneticist, Born (1822)
July 21
Aswan High Dam Opened (1970)
July 22
Ratcatcher’s Day
July 23
Commercial Whaling Banned (1982)
July 24
Machu Picchu Discovered (1911)
July 25
Jim Corbett, Tiger Conservationist, Born (1875)
July 26
James Lovelock, Originator of the Gaia Theory, Born (1919)
July 27
Przewalski’s horse gave birth by artificial insemination (2013)
July 28
Beatrix Potter, Author and Conservationist, Born (1866)
July 29
International Tiger Day
July 30
Golden Spike National Historical Park Created (1965)
July 31
Curt Gowdy, Sportscaster and Conservationist, Born (1919)
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