WASHINGTON – Au revoir, Paris Agreement. As of Wednesday, according to United Nations regulations, the United States officially did not join the global climate treaty. Here’s how it happened, what it meant, and what might come next.
How do we get here?
You can be forgiven for thinking that the United States abandoned the global climate change agreement a long time ago. Since 2017, when President Trump announced his intention to abandon the treaty, he has been talking about the withdrawal as if it were a deal done. In practice, however, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is a lengthy process.
On November 4, 2019, the earliest possible date under United Nations regulations that a country can initiate the final withdrawal process, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo submitted the paperwork to do so. It completes automatically a year later. So as of Wednesday morning, the United States is officially no longer part of a group of countries committed to addressing climate change.
President Trump called the Paris Agreement “kill jobs” and said it would “punish the American people while enriching foreign polluters.”
Technically, however, the Paris Agreement doesn’t require the United States to do anything. In fact, it’s not even a treaty. It is a non-binding agreement between countries of all levels of wealth and responsibility for climate change to reduce domestic emissions.
The Agreement essentially aligns every nation’s commitment to voluntary emissions in a single forum, with the understanding that countries will set even tougher goals over time. The United States under President Barack Obama has promised to reduce emissions by about 28% to below 2005 levels by 2025, but progress toward that goal has stopped under the Trump administration.
There are a number of reporting requirements to make sure countries are making progress, but the Trump administration has ignored them and so far have not suffered the consequences.
Who’s still inside and what are they doing?
Almost every country in the world. Of the 195 countries that signed the Paris Agreement, 189 countries continued to formally ratify the agreement. Initially Nicaragua and Syria refused to support the treaty, but in the end both joined the agreement.
As of Wednesday, outside of the US, the countries that initially signed but have not officially ratified the Paris Agreement are: Angola, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Turkey and Yemen.
So far, no other country that has followed the United States has abandoned the Paris Agreement. There was a time when Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to do so but then reversed course.
In recent weeks, there have been a series of ambitious climate commitments from Europe and Asia. Last month, the European Parliament voted to cut emissions by 60% by 2030, with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. That measure will now be approved by the Council of Ministers of the European Union. consider. China vowed to become carbon neutral by 2060. That commitment is made by South Korea and Japan, both of which are committed to zero net emissions by 2050.
“Motivation continues to build even as the United States withdraws,” said Alden Meyer, director of the Coalition of Interested Scientists and 30 years of experience in international climate negotiations.
“The question is, will it continue without full US participation?” he say.
Will US greenhouse gas emissions spike?
Unnecessary. By itself, leaving the Paris Agreement does not mean the United States will stop tackling climate change.
On the other hand, it means that the federal government has formally abandoned, at least for now, President Obama’s goal of cutting emissions by about 28% from 2005 levels by 2025.
In fact, the United States under President Trump moved away from that goal many years ago. Currently, we have reached half of our Obama era goal and have not yet reached it. So while emissions probably won’t increase, they won’t fall off fast enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
Are US withdrawals final?
Are not. Any future president can choose to participate.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. pledged that he would ask the United States to join the Paris Agreement on Day 1. Practically, that meant that on Inauguration Day, January 20, his administration would send a letter to Lien. Notified by United Nations. US intention to rejoin. The return of the Americans will become official 30 days later.
Other countries will most likely give the Biden administration some time to stand up but would also like to see strong early signs that the United States has substantial plans to cut domestic emissions from cars and homes. electrical machines and other sources.
By the time the United States joins other countries at the next UN climate conference, scheduled to take place in Glasgow next November, the country will have a goal of cutting emissions even by even more ambitious than in the Obama era.
If the United States does not stand out of the agreement, it could still have a say in UN climate negotiations. That’s because it will remain a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that created the Paris Agreement. However, the United States will be downgraded as observers, meaning their negotiators will be allowed to attend meetings and work with other countries to shape the results but not be allowed to vote on decisions.
“They will still be influential, but there is nothing like they will be all-round players,” Meyer said.