ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Trump’s Toxic Announcement on Climate Change

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will exit from the Paris Agreement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the agreement works. It also goes against long-agreed climate principles, and is blind to emergent clean energy trends. In practical terms, the US had activated a rollback of mitigation policies and contributions to climate finance prior to this announcement. Until there are changes in domestic US climate politics—of which there are positive signs—the US cannot be regarded a reliable partner for global climate cooperation.

Ever since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States (US) in January this year, environmentalists the world over have been asking: will he or won’t he withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change? Now we know. On 1 June, Trump announced that “to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord…” (The White House 2017b). This article examines the implications of this statement for the future of the Paris Agreement, the prospects of meeting a global temperature goal, the provision of climate finance, and global climate politics.

However, to understand the implications of this action along these dimensions, it is helpful to first delve into the stated reasons for the US withdrawal, and in Trump’s own rather toxic words. Trump said the Paris Agreement will have the effect of “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories,” that it “punishes the United States … while imposing no meaningful obligations of the world’s leading polluters,” that it is “unfair, at the very highest level, to the United States,” and that it will lead to a “massive redistribution of wealth to other countries.” This reasoning, such as it is, supports three disturbing interpretations, all of which bode ill for the future of US participation in global climate cooperation.

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