A congressional source from the White House has informed the press that President Donald Trump plans to formally withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. The climate change deal, brought about in late 2015, unified over 190 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in an effort to minimize the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. By pulling out of the agreement, the United States will align itself with only two other countries who oppose the agreement: Syria and Nicaragua.
The move has been the subject of controversy even amongst the President’s inner circle. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has reportedly advocated heavily for the United States to part ways with the deal while Trump’s own daughter and son-in-law (who have been notably politically involved in the work of the administration thus far) stood firmly against doing so, according to administration officials.
Though breaking from precedent on the Paris accord is consistent with promises Trump made to his supporters while on the campaign trail, some critics of the deal have pointed out the potentially devastating impact withdrawing may have on political sectors the Trump administration has previously vocally supported. In an interview with Business Insider, John Sterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and senior advisor at ClimateInteractive, pointed to its potentially negative effect on trade and the economy as a whole (a historical priority of the Art Of The Deal-authoring president) as a reason he believes the United States should maintain its stance.
“It’s not that far-fetched to imagine a scenario where China, in response to the US pulling out…implement[s] a carbon tax on all goods exported from the US to China, and others nations could follow suit.”
Sterman also pointed to the potential strife within the industry energy that could come as a result of the move, which he said would not lend well to investors feeling confident about the status of either the renewable energy or the non-renewable energy industries. The uncertainty caused by the prospect of this consequence has led fossil fuel companies, which include coal miner group Cloud Peak and oil giant Exxon Mobil, to become unlikely active opponents of withdrawing from the deal alongside environmental advocates from the left.
In a now nearly one-month-old letter addressed to President Trump, Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall articulated his concerns with Trump’s plan to split from the deal from the perspective of the coal miners represented by his company.
“By remaining in the Paris Agreement, albeit with a much different pledge on emissions, you can help shape a more rational international approach to climate policy…Without US leadership, the failed international policies that have characterized the past 25 years will continue to predominate…Addressing climate concerns need not be a choice between prosperity or environment.”
Americans overwhelmingly support participation in the Paris agreement. pic.twitter.com/0Vr8psgijL
— Joshua Bloch (@joshbloch) June 1, 2017
In wake of the initial Paris talks, which resulted in the drafting of the agreement, many internal efforts were made on the United States’ part to internally limit reliance on the fossil fuel industry when it came to supporting the nation’s energy needs. The Obama administration quickly stopped administering new coal mining leases on public lands. Within the private sector, financial leader JPMorgan announced they would no longer fund coal mines globally. The solar energy workforce saw an increase of 32% in 2016 while wind energy-related employment counts increased by 25% themselves.
Other countries, as well as international corporations, soon followed the lead of the United States. Similar efforts to honor the emission-reducing efforts laid out in the Paris talks were taken by groups ranging from the European Union to the Saudi Arabian government to French bank Societe Generale. The large historical influence of the United States on matters of climate change has left many questioning what the nation’s reversal on the Paris Agreement will do to impact the American energy industry, both at home and abroad.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]