On Thursday, 1 June 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. In his speech in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump stated that he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” He explained that this move would protect the country from a “draconian” international deal, and while he garnered support from his close-minded followers, he was immediately condemned by “political leaders, business executives, and environmentalists around the globe.” The New York Times wrote that “Mr. Trump’s decision to abandon the agreement for environmental action signed by 195 nations is a remarkable rebuke to heads of state, climate activists, corporate executives and members of the president’s own staff, who all failed to change his mind with an intense, last-minute lobbying blitz. The Paris agreement was intended to bind the world community into battling rising temperatures in concert, and the departure of the Earth’s second-largest polluter is a major blow.” Minutes after Mr. Trump made his announcement -- stating that “we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.” -- various leaders of Germany, France, and Italy announced that the Paris agreement is unable to be renegotiated. What’s more, Elon Musk, founder and head of Tesla Motors and a member of Mr. Trump’s Business Advisory Council, went to Twitter to announce his feelings on our president’s decision.
In case you were unsure, there are only two other countries who are not a part of the Paris Climate Agreement -- Syria and Nicaragua. According to the Washington Post, in November 2015, “Nicaragua’s lead envoy explained to reporters that the country would not support the agreed-upon plan as it hinged on voluntary pledges wand would not punish those who failed to meet them. That was simply not enough.” In regards to Syria, when the Paris accord was first agreed upon and signed, the country “was effectively an international pariah...given the nature of the conflict during the Paris negotiations, the Assad government was in no position to commit to limiting Syria’s climate emissions.” What, exactly, were the conditions of Syria? A seven year civil conflict that has torn the Syrian nation apart.
So what exactly is the Paris Agreement? In 2015, “[r]epresentatives from 196 nations made a historic pact...in Paris, to adopt green energy sources, cut down on climate change emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures -- while also cooperating to cope with the impact of unavoidable climate change.” The agreement, overall, acknowledges that climate change is a real threat and that the effects of climate change are irreversible. The nations that met in Paris made a promise to reduce emissions, and Christopher Joyce of NPR explains that “[t]he agreement now codifies that and sets a framework for those reductions to begin in 2020.”
We can hold out a bit of hope. Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement doesn’t mean an abrupt end to all the work that’s been done in the last few years. Cities and states are capable of continuing to uphold the guidelines set in the agreement. Bill Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, went to Twitter to state that he will continue to follow those guidelines “for our people, our economy and future.”
California and New York have also agreed to continue keeping up with the guidelines of the agreement. More than that, however, is the legally binding articles of the agreement that hold each country that enters into it for three years. The agreements officially went into effect in November 2016 which means our country can't officially say it is leaving the agreement until 2019, and the earliest the United States can formally and officially withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is November 2020. While there are ways that Mr. Trump could circumvent all these bindings, there is still hope. There is hope that, in the next presidential election, science an facts come out on top. There is hope that we will have a presidential candidate that is competent and willing to do what is truly best for our country and for our people.
Though things look grim and dark right now, it's important to remember that there is hope.