In a move that sent shockwaves through political and environmental circles across the globe, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on Thursday. The decision keeps with Trump’s campaign commitment to end U.S. participation in the pact, which his administration says hurts American energy workers and fails to hold other nations to acceptable standards for reducing carbon emissions.
This comes despite the objections of many climate activists, business leaders, and even members of Trump’s own family and party, who argue that the agreement represents the most significant political move towards curbing the damaging effects of climate change, and that the U.S.’s withdrawal may harm the country’s international leadership role and long-term economic outlook.
Signed by a coalition of 195 nations in 2016 (only Syria and Nicaragua remained outside the deal), the Paris Agreement was widely lauded as a landmark step in the effort to curb global carbon emissions.
The voluntary agreement called for all signatories to set “ambitious” aspirational emission targets, commit to making their best effort to meet them, and to provide periodic updates on their progress.
Negative reactions from the outdoor community came swiftly.
“We’re extremely concerned about the president’s decision,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “We believe that it’s critical to keep a seat at the table, to maintain our commitments to our international partners, and to enable an economy built on renewable energy to combat the serious impact of climate change.”
In his speech from the White House Rose Garden, Trump proclaimed his willingness to renegotiate the agreement to obtain more favorable terms for the U.S., an idea that was quickly shot down by a number of foreign leaders, including newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who condemned Trump’s decision as “error for the interests of his country, his people, and a mistake for the future of our planet.”
“It’s frustrating to see how partisan this has become, and the president’s decision today certainly seems like an overtly political move on an issue that doesn’t care which side of the aisle you’re on,” says Lindsay Bourgoine, the manager for advocacy and campaigns at Protect Our Winters. “People of all parties enjoy the outdoors, and people of all parties enjoy the quality of life they have, which is seriously threatened by climate change.”
The agreement’s future is now very much in flux following Trump’s decision. Opponents of withdrawal argue that the entire deal could break down in the absence of U.S. leadership, though there have been some encouraging early signs that this may not be the case after China and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to meeting their emissions targets in the hours following the president’s announcement.
Still, without any enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance, the agreement relies entirely on good faith and cooperation, and with its most important signatory now on the way out it remains to be seen whether others will follow suit.
The positive news for environmentalists is that the lengthy withdrawal process won’t conclude until November 2020, the same month Trump is up for reelection, ensuring that the issue will be hotly debated the next presidential campaign cycle.
“The onus is now squarely on cities, states, business leaders, including those in the outdoor industry, and private citizens to fill the void this administration has left,” Bourgoine said. “We can’t just sit back and say that the fight is over because the U.S. has pulled out of Paris. This issue is far too important for that.”