June 7th, 2017

10 facts about the U.S. exit from the Paris climate agreement


  1. President Trump announced at a speech in the Rose Garden on June 1, 2017, that his administration would begin the four-year process of withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The international agreement was signed by 195 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. The Paris Climate Accord is a voluntary, non-binding agreement and allows participant countries to set their own carbon emission goals, deadlines and carbon reduction strategies. Under former president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States agreed to reduce emissions by approximately 26 percent by 2025.
  3. All countries in the agreement are permitted to alter their commitments and there are no legal penalties for failing to reach goals. Instead, the agreement has a peer pressure mechanism to encourage countries that fall short of meeting the goals.
  4. Arguing that his decision was motivated by a “reassertion of American sovereignty,” Trump said during his speech that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Major U.S. allies, climate activists, business leaders and even the Pope had urged the president to remain in the agreement.
  5. The Paris Climate Accord was designed to prevent the average global surface temperature from warming beyond 1.5॰ Celsius beyond preindustrial levels. Warming beyond that “danger point” has been predicted to bring about a significant rise in sea level, longer droughts, and greater severe weather.
  6. President Trump has had a history of skepticism towards human-induced climate change. In 2012, Trump tweeted that global warming was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, promised to exit the Paris agreement on the campaign trail and repeatedly asserted that environmental regulations cost American jobs in the energy sector.
  7. One of President Trump’s primary stated reasons for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords was that it disadvantaged the United States and American taxpayers “to the exclusive benefit of other countries” he said in his announcement speech in the White House Rose Garden. However, California Governor Jerry Brown said that withdrawing from the agreement would actually cost Americans jobs.
  8. President Trump said that he would pursue negotiations to re-enter the agreement in the future. However, he did not indicate that the Paris agreement was a high priority for his administration. “If we can [re-enter], great. If we can’t, that’s fine,” he said.
  9. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a joint statement indicating that they did not intend to renegotiate. The U.S. will join Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries that are not signatories of the agreement.
  10. In an open letter, more than 1,200 mayors, governors, university presidents, business leaders and investors signaled that they remained committed to fighting climate change with or without Washington. In addition, 12 states and Puerto Rico have formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, all committing to uphold the tenets of the agreement.

By Amanda Wilcox, PBS NewsHour Extra’s intern and a sophomore at Wake Forest University.

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