Debunking myths about the Paris climate accord

Trump announced today that the U.S. will no longer be part of the Paris deal.

ByABC News
June 1, 2017, 4:53 PM

— -- The White House announced today that the United States will no longer be part of the Paris climate deal, but what does that actually mean?

There have been some misconceptions out there about the Paris Agreement so here are answers to some common questions about the climate deal and what happens next after today's announcement.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an international accord ratified by 147 countries acknowledging a commitment to keep global temperatures from rising too much and too fast. Specifically, under the deal, countries promise to try to keep temperatures no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial age norms by committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to help slow rising temperatures around the world.

What will be the reaction after the U.S. pulls out of the Paris agreement?

Exiting the Paris Agreement could hurt the United States' relationship with other countries because the country could be seen as willing to go back on its promises. So even though President Donald Trump has said he wants to renegotiate trade deals, Michael Trio, the director of a coalition of European countries committed to climate change issues, said those countries might rethink doing any deals with the U.S.

"It is clear that a decision by the White House to leave the Paris Agreement would further isolate the U.S. not only in economic terms because the transition goes on but also in political terms," Trio said Wednesday.

Trip also said that leaving the agreement could threaten diplomatic relations with other countries that see climate change as a priority because leaving the agreement signals that the U.S. does not think it is an important issue.

Even if the country is no longer part of the agreement local governments or the private sector could step in to try to meet goals in the agreement to reduce emissions of gases that contribute to global warming.

“I believe that if the administration follows through on this and pulls out of the agreement there will be a huge space open to governors and mayors to step up to the challenge and talk about what’s happening in the U.S. and how the president doesn’t represent the will of the people and the plans of their governments,” John Coequyt, global policy director for the Sierra Club, said Wednesday.

Officials in California and New York, including the mayors of Los Angeles and New York City, have already said that their cities will maintain commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

How will this decision impact other countries?

Some representatives of other countries have suggested that the U.S. should leave the agreement if the current administration isn’t serious about policies that combat climate change. Joseph Curtin, a member of the Irish Climate Change Advisory Council, wrote that it might be more responsible for the U.S. to leave the agreement now and rejoin when the country is “ready to behave like a responsible global citizen.”

“The Paris Agreement is not intended as a fig leaf. It is not a branding opportunity, nor is it intended as a platform for lobbying. It is a club for countries who are part of a global effort to tackle dangerous climate change, and who are committed to emissions reductions. The U.S. no longer meets these admission criteria,” Curtin wrote for a climate news site.

While several global leaders have promised to forge ahead on climate change goals, scientists and environmentalists worry that if the U.S. backs out of the deal, smaller, less developed countries will have an excuse to also walk back their commitments.

It’s important to remember that the U.S. is also the second largest emitter of carbon and greenhouse gases in the world and so the decision to go on full steam ahead, without an eye toward renewables, clean energy or new standards could result in significantly more pollution from the U.S. that arguably impacts people in other countries.

Why are Republicans suggesting Trump withdraw from the Paris Agreement and will it really cost jobs?

Top Senate Republicans wrote to Trump last week urging him to make a “clean break” from the Paris climate accord. Their argument was that with the agreement still formally on the table, it could be harder for the president to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which he has promised to do.

That plan had sought to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, and the fear among conservatives was that environmentalists could use the Paris Agreement as grounds to sue the U.S. government. Even if the terms and benchmarks of the deal were nonbinding, they worried some would try to legally demand the U.S. do more.

Republicans in favor of withdrawing see the move as one more way this new White House is freeing energy companies from potential federal and even international regulations. Fewer regulations, they argue, promote business and more jobs. According to The Washington Post and Forbes, there are approximately five times more Americans working in solar power than in coal, and renewable energy jobs have been going up steadily the last decade.

What do other international leaders think about the U.S. potentially leaving the Paris Agreement?

Global leaders strongly encouraged the U.S. to stay in the agreement, but many big players also said in recent days that they will honor their own commitments even if the U.S. retreats.

After the G7 summit last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear she thought Europe would need to lead in this area, while both China and India have made aggressive investments and promises to reduce pollution and emission in their own countries.

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