Rumours are swirling that President-elect Trump may move swiftly to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, or even the UNFCCC. While withdrawal would certainly be a major setback, ECO reminds its readers that one of the great strengths of the Paris Agreement is that it was built to withstand such an isolated, short-term political setback, even by the world’s second largest emitter.
Indeed, the Agreement is already proving its resilience. No country has said that they would follow the US out of the Agreement. Quite the contrary, many countries and groups, including China, the EU, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the Least Developed Countries, the High Ambition Coalition and others have all reconfirmed their commitment to continue to take aggressive climate action under the Agreement. Others such as Australia, Pakistan and Italy have even joined the Agreement in the days since the US election results came in. In so doing, they have sent a resounding message that the countries of the world will forge on, with or without the US.
If the Trump administration does decide to cede leadership and credibility on an issue of such surpassing global importance, others are ready to take its place. China has said that it is prepared to have a stronger voice—and to reap the rewards in terms of international standing, goodwill and global influence that will surely accrue.
On the flip side, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would do considerable damage to the US’ global standing and credibility in the world. Countries have clearly shown, through the unprecedented engagement of their leaders in the development of the Paris Agreement, that climate change is now a core national interest and a top-tier diplomatic priority. By abandoning the global effort to contain the climate crisis, the Trump Administration would severely undermine its ability to achieve any of its other diplomatic priorities. The Bush Administration discovered this when it left the Kyoto Protocol. ECO can only hope that the incoming administration quickly learns this lesson, before the damage is done.