Trump withdraws US from Paris climate agreement, but green business leaders remain defiant

US President Donald Trump has announced that the country is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change in a decision business leaders and green groups across the world have branded a political, economic and environmental failure of monumental proportions.

After months of delaying the highly controversial decision, Trump today (1 June) appeared in a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, where the President confirmed that the US will immediately begin negotiating to re-enter the accord if it is “fair”, or to secure a new deal.

“In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord, or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its tax-payers,” Trump said. 

“So, we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. “If we can, that’s great, and if we can’t, that’s fine.

“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, and I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States, which is what it does.”

‘Bad deal’

The announcement flies in the face of numerous messages from business leaders and investors, believed to be worth £11bn, urging Trump to keep the US in the landmark agreement, which committed the the US and 187 other countries to keeping global temperatures “well below” 2C above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C.

However, it has been claimed that a letter sent from 22 Republican Senators had reinforced Trump’s desire to withdraw. White House documents will claim the accord “is a BAD deal for Americans” and that, by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, Trump will maintain “his campaign promise to put American workers first”.

The decision was immediately met with extreme disappointment from a swathe of organisations, with Friends of the Earth branding the US an “outcast” and the Carbon Tracker Initiative claiming Trump’s decision “will sadly cast the US on the wrong side of history”.

In the UK, green groups and politicians calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to use any influence she may have with Trump to reverse his decision. Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven said May “should now publicly distance herself from Trump’s irresponsible move”, while Liberal Democrats Leader Tim Farron has issued a statement to May, claiming “if your special relationship with Donald Trump means anything, prove it”.

Earlier in the week, Labour Shadow Secretary Barry Gardiner accused the Tories of “sucking up” to US President Donald Trump in spite of his unwillingness to support the Paris Agreement. Gardiner claimed it was a “disgrace” that the UK hadn’t at any point criticised the US for threatening to pull out of the Agreement.

Defiant optimism

Today, green groups and business have been quick to issue messages of defiant optimism for climate action to continue in America and across the world, despite Trump’s announcement. 

Sustainable business coalition We Mean Business has said firms across the US “will continue to join their global counterparts in striving to meet ambitious climate related goals because what works for climate, works for business”. WWF Scotland has stated that “while the US withdrawal will impact our climate trajectory, it will not define its final outcome”. And the Aldersgate Group has underlined that “the decision won’t result in a U-turn on climate action in the US or globally”.

For Trump’s decision to come into effect, the US will have to undergo a complex legal process to officially withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Parties can only pull out three years after the Agreement officially entered force, meaning the earliest withdrawal via this route would be November 2019. However, withdrawing from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would trigger a departure from the accord, and this would only require one years’ notice.

Only Syria and Nicaragua are non-participants in the 195-nation accord, which was agreed in Paris in 2015. But Syria was unable to send an official to sign the accord because of the civil war and Nicaragua chose not to sign because it felt the Agreement did not go far enough.

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie