Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Primary Content Skip to Footer Navigation

Paris Paranoia – The results of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement

By:
Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jul 11, 2017  at  at 6:48 AM
Category
Climate Change

Much has been said and written about the anticipated effects of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord. Several US cities and states have announced their intention to conform to the CO2 reduction targets agreed to by President Obama in the Paris Accord. Several corporations have also announced their intent to continue pursuing CO2 emissions reductions in line with the previous US voluntary commitment.

Some have described these statements as defiance of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord. However, nothing in President Trump’s statement in any way prevents or inhibits US cities and states, or US Corporations from pursuing climate change related actions which they believe are in their enlightened self-interest. Therefore, while these statements certainly express disagreement with Trump’s decision, they do not represent defiance. They merely express a willingness to move forward on their own, as they were free to do before the Paris Accord was ratified, after it was ratified, and after the US withdrawal.

There are significant differences in the positions of these entities and the position of the US as a nation with regard to the Accord. President Obama obligated the United States to achieving a 26-28% reduction in US CO2 emissions by 2030; and, expressed the nation’s intent to reduce US CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. President Obama also obligated the United States to provide approximately 30% of the funding for the UN Green Climate Fund, which was to provide an initial $100 billion per year to fund adaptation to and mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change on developing and not-yet-developing nations. The UNFCCC expected this climate funding to increase to approximately $400 billion per year.

US cities, states, and corporations are not and will not be signatories to the Paris Accord. Therefore, they have not obligated themselves to achieving specific CO2 emissions reduction levels by 2030 or 2050. They have also not committed themselves to contribute to the Green Climate Fund. Arguably, they are less obligated as the result of the US withdrawal from the Accord, as they would have been obligated by the US federal government to achieve some portion of the overall US reduction target. Also, as US taxpayers, they would have been obligated to provide their share of the US contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

President Trump offered to consider renegotiation of the Paris Accord, or negotiation of a new Accord which would be fairer to US taxpayers. However, both France and Germany have stated that there would be no such negotiations. Regardless, the US is now free to proceed to deal with the issue of climate change as it sees fit. That means that ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency, implement renewable energy for power generation and alternative fuels for transportation can continue apace. State energy commission and utility commission renewable portfolio standards programs and renewable energy incentives can continue or expand.

Essentially, the only effects of the US withdrawal are the shedding of the national compliance and funding obligations in the Paris Accord and avoidance of the limitations to US national sovereignty embodied in the Accord. US citizens, cities, states and the US as a nation can now plan for their future actions regarding climate change without looking over their shoulders to see who’s after them.