Pulling the United States out of the Paris climate deal would have unforeseen consequences for President Trump, his international agenda and U.S. climate policy.It would leave the world’s superpower outside an accord meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that includes nearly every other country in the world, aside from Syria and Nicaragua. While it is not entirely clear that Trump has made up his mind to end U.S. participation in the deal, sources say that at a minimum, he is leaning in that direction.
Here’s how to interpret and understand the decision.
Trump is playing to the base
Trump has called the pact a “bad deal” for the United States and made withdrawing from it a key component of his “America First” campaign platform.
At an April rally, he called the agreement “one-sided” and said “the United States pays billions of dollars while China, Russia and India have contributed and will contribute nothing.”
Given his past statements and promises, it isn’t hard to see why Trump would want to pull the United States out of the deal.
Yet the decision has provoked a furious internal battle within the White House, pitting Trump’s family members Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner against adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Pulling the United States out of the deal means Trump is siding with Bannon and his base over the objections of centrists in his government – and the business community.
Exxon Mobil Corp. and many large American businesses urged Trump to stay in the deal, arguing it would maintain U.S. influence over future talks.
“By remaining a party to the Paris agreement, the United States will maintain a seat at the negotiating table to ensure a level playing field so that all energy sources and technologies are treated equitably in an open, transparent and competitive global market,” Exxon CEO Darren Woods wrote in a May 9 letter to Trump.
By pulling out of the Paris accord, Trump would be signaling he’s willing to take on supporters of the deal who are usually his allies – in order to back his core base of supporters.
Many Republicans on Capitol Hill are likely to support pulling out of the Paris deal – 20 leading Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked Trump to do just that last week.
Withdrawing from Paris would greatly please conservative groups, which have orchestrated an all-out push in opposition to the pact.
“Without any impact on global temperatures, Paris is the open door for egregious regulation, cronyism, and government spending that would be disastrous for the American economy as it is proving to be for those in Europe,” said Nick Loris, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
“It is time for the U.S. to say ‘au revoir’ to the Paris agreement,” he said.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Trump wants his presidency to be about jobs and his decision to be viewed as an economic win for the United States.
A recent report commissioned by the oil industry-backed American Council for Capital Formation found that the deal would eliminate $3 trillion in GDP and 6.5 million jobs by 2040. A Heritage Foundation paper last year didn’t go quite as far. It predicted that the agreement would prevent 400,000 jobs and cause a GDP loss of $2.5 trillion.
Yet there are also economic arguments for staying in the pact.
The International Renewable Energy Agency estimated recently that the pact would make the world $19 trillion richer by 2050.
The Department of Energy says 3 million Americans worked in clean energy last year, a number that would be threatened by a Paris pullout.
To environmentalists and other Paris agreement supporters, Trump would be ceding American international dominance in clean energy industries like wind, solar and carbon capture technology to other major powers like China and Europe.
“If the Trump administration fails to show leadership on domestic climate actions and support the Paris Agreement on climate change, it will cede a competitive economic edge to nations like China,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA chief under Obama, wrote Wednesday in Foreign Policy.
But that’s just economics.
Climate scientists nearly unanimously blame human activity for climate change, warning it will have wide-ranging health and safety impacts for billions of people. The Paris deal – with its emissions targets and its global fund to adapt to the impact of climate change – was designed to unite the world against that threat.
Trump, though, does not believe the science behind climate change, and has called it a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. He and his administration have said the economic impacts of climate regulations are the real danger to Americans’ livelihoods.
The decision follows Trump’s first foreign trip as president, which began with cheers in Saudi Arabia but ended with conflict in the European Union.
Withdrawing from the Paris climate deal will earn the president bad reviews from allies in France and Germany who have urged Trump to take a more proactive approach to climate change.
Paris deal opponents, including the president, say the agreement gives countries like China and India a leg up economically over the U.S., because they are not cutting their emissions in real terms under it.
American and international officials warn leaving will hurt the country on the diplomatic stage.
“Pulling out of Paris would cause serious diplomatic damage,” Todd Stern, former President Obama’s chief climate negotiator, wrote in an Atlantic op-ed on Wednesday.
“The countries of the world care about climate change. … The president’s exit from Paris would be read as a kind of ‘drop dead’ to the rest of the world. Bitterness, anger, and disgust would be the wages of this careless act.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ant nio Guterres said Tuesday that leaving Paris would create a leadership vacuum that adversaries like China and Russia could enter into in the U.S.’s place.
“If one country decides to leave a void, I can guarantee someone else will occupy it,” Guterres said in a speech at New York University.
Trump has spent much of his first months in office seeking to erase Obama’s legacy, with mixed success.
He’s sought to repeal ObamaCare and roll back various regulations, including those underpinning the former president’s efforts to meet U.S. commitments in the Paris deal.
Under Paris, Obama pledged a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2025, a lofty goal that was underpinned by a host of federal mandates to cut emissions from the electricity, transportation and fossil fuel sectors.
Trump’s decision to align the U.S. against nearly every country in the world shows the extent to which he’s willing to dismantle the Obama administration’s climate agenda.
In March he signed an executive order to begin the process of formally repealing Obama’s aggressive unilateral climate agenda, including ending carbon rules for power plants that were key to achieving the Paris goal.
Several other departments have kicked off efforts to roll back Obama rules designed to help the climate: Interior is reviewing a coal leasing overhaul and offshore drilling restrictions, Transportation and the EPA are reconsidering emissions standards for cars and the EPA is rolling back methane regulations, freezing one such rule even as Paris news broke on Wednesday.