Why Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Image

In a speech in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump laid out his reasons for pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, an international effort to reduce global warming, which he called a “self-inflicted major economic wound” that weakens US sovereignty and doesn’t do much for the environment.

The president argued that the 2015 agreement, which nearly every country in the world signed onto, “hamstrings” the US economy, particularly the manufacturing and fossil fuel industries, hurts American workers, and empowers countries that pollute almost as much or more than the US.

“The bottom line is that the Paris agreement is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States,” Trump said.

He claimed that the agreement would impose “draconian financial and economic burdens,” costing America $US3 trillion in domestic economic activity and 6.5 million industrial and manufacturing jobs.

“The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries,” Trump said, arguing the deal would “transfer” American coal jobs to China and India.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the agreement would result in “economic carnage.”

In line with his “America First” motto, the president argued that the deal would put international interests ahead of American needs.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence claimed Trump’s decision proves his commitment to “forgotten” Americans, particularly those in communities that voted heavily for Trump in November.

“Our president is choosing to put American jobs and American consumers first,” Pence said. “Our president is choosing to put American energy and American industry first. And by his action today, President Trump is choosing to put the forgotten men and women first.”

And as Business Insider’s Josh Barro pointed out, the climate agreement is non-binding in nature, so therefore Trump’s withdrawal from it is largely symbolic.

But US and international corporations, including major oil companies Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and BP, support the Paris agreement, arguing that climate change is a threat to their businesses and that rejecting the deal would harm the international relations their global operations rely on. Dozens of other CEOs have similarly argued that pulling out of the deal will hurt the US economy.

Still, Trump emphasised his claim that the accord imposes harsher restrictions on the US than on other big polluters, putting America at a “permanent disadvantage.” He suggested that countries around the world are celebrating the deal because it gives them an economic edge over the US.

Although he called out China and India, the two largest polluters besides the US, Trump did not mention that the US, home to about 4% of the world’s population, is responsible for almost one third of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While China, which makes up 20% of the world’s population, emits more CO2 now, historically, the US has polluted more than any other country.

As for the impact of the accord on global warming, Trump argued the deal would only lead to a “tiny” reduction in global temperatures.

Trump has long criticised the Paris deal, promising to “cancel” it on the campaign trail, and is an outspoken climate science sceptic, calling climate change “an expensive hoax.”

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