Donald Trump Throws Down a New Challenge

United States withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is criticized in many countries

Implementing his campaign promises, the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the country's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017. As the main argument the President stated that the international legal instrument is incompatible with the economic interests of the United States, which he considers primary.

One of the specific measures to move away from climate commitments will be the US refusal to contribute to UN Green Climate Fund. The Fund was established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to provide financial support to developing States to adapt to climate change. Trump believes that the funds invested by his country in this structure are being spent inefficiently.

Trump’s decision immediately aroused growing discontent of several leading member countries of the Paris Agreement. All the G7 states, with the exception of USA, have repeatedly expressed their support for the implementation of the agreement, which was noted in the outcome document of the G7 summit on May 27, 2017. President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have already expressed their regret, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the US can't “just” pull out the Paris Climate Agreement. According to him, Trump is wrong, because he “doesn’t know all the details” of the obligations imposed by the document to the participating countries. In his turn, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has confirmed the commitment to the Paris Agreement regardless of the decision of the United States.

Trump’s statement has also caused a new wave of criticism from his opponents within the country. Democratic Party leader in the U.S. Congress Ch. Shumer called the withdrawal “one of the worst political moves made in the twenty-first century that will cause great damage to the American economy and the environment.” General Electric CEO J. Immelt said that “disappointed” and believes climate change is real. According to him, the American industry will be forced to deal with its consequences, regardless of the US government actions.

According to the Paris Agreement supporters, Trump’s decision creates serious preconditions for undermining the international prestige and geopolitical position of the country. In the future the world community will be less trusting of Washington’s signature under the international instruments. In addition, the vacuum formed by the U.S. withdrawal can be filled by China. Being an advanced player in the green technologies development, Beijing gets a great opportunity to become a world leader in the climate sphere.

From a legal point of view, the U.S. has few options of formal withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Washington may send written notice to the Depositary of the Treaty. However, in accordance with its provisions, it can be done only after 4 years after its entry into force. It means that the U.S. can withdraw from the agreement only in 2020.

Another way is the exit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that automatically means termination of participation in the Paris Agreement. The U.S. can withdraw from the agreement in one year, but this step may turn the United States into “climate outcast” in the international arena, as the UNFCCC opens the opportunity to participate in key institutions of the climate change and the right to vote in them. However, the critical Trump’s attitude to the UN institutions in general and the UNFCCC in particular should be considered.

Regardless of the method for the official withdrawal from the Paris Agreement Trump might not require congressional approval, as United States’ consent to be bound by a Treaty, at the initiative of former President Obama, was expressed through the adoption of the presidential act without ratification by Congress.

However, in his speech, D. Trump stated not only about withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, but about the beginning of negotiations on the possibility of U.S. participation in the climate agreement, new or existing, but with introduction of amendments providing “fair” and beneficial conditions for the state. Besides that, D. Trump told about the U.S. environmental programs creating jobs in the country. Now in the United States more than 2 million people are engaged in the fields associated with “green technologies”, and the White House’s support will be primarily directed at them.

In the case of the U.S. refusal to participate in the agreement, it will be difficult for the other parties to achieve the stated objectives. The United States is the second after China by carbon dioxide emissions (about 15 %), and it is the largest source of funding for the Green Climate Fund.

At the same time, the U.S. president’s decision generally correlates with the Trump’s course of protectionism and isolationism of the country. In terms of commitment to the “America first” principle D. Trump considers negative consequences of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement insignificant in comparison with the possible benefits for the national economy of the state.

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