Reports have confirmed United States president Donald Trump will pull out of the international agreement to keep global temperature rise to 2°C.
While the president has tweeted that he will make his announcement at 3pm US Eastern Time (5am Friday Eastern Standard Time), multiple sources have confirmed the US’s withdrawal, which perhaps is obvious from Trump’s all caps catch phrase (MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!) in his tweet.
I will be announcing my decision on Paris Accord, Thursday at 3:00 P.M. The White House Rose Garden. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 1, 2017
The US would join Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries not signed up to the agreement.
There is also the possibility of the US withdrawing from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has been described as the “nuclear option”, and a “worst case scenario” by ANU Crawford School of Public Policy Professor Frank Jotzo.
“Exiting the UNFCCC would remove the US entirely from the global climate-change process,” he said. “It could then be difficult for the US to re-enter the Convention later, under a new president.”
Will withdrawal be effective?
Australian commentators have argued over the consequences of the US’s widely expected withdrawal from the Paris agreement.
ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society’s Dr Luke Kemp, writing in Nature Climate Change, said the world could be better off without the “recalcitrant administration” inside the tent.
He said if the US remained it would also reveal the agreement’s weakness and prevent new, more effective opportunities from emerging.
“If the US remains under the agreement it will keep a veto in the negotiations. The US could use its voice and veto to water down the rules and details of the Paris Agreement, which are currently being negotiated. Giving the former head of ExxonMobil a seat at the table is a terrible idea.”
Dr Kemp said it was “short-sighted” to push for the US to remain.
“The international community should be more concerned about the actions of the US, rather than whether they are symbolically cooperating,” he said.
“A withdrawal could trigger new opportunities to emerge, such as carbon border adjustments and forceful leadership from the EU and China.”
It will only make thing worse
Jonathan Pickering, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, disagreed, writing in The Conversation that the US leaving was just as likely to demotivate countries to act, as it was to energise them.
“Nations with less domestic momentum on climate policy may likewise pull out, water down their current or future targets, or fail to ratify Paris,” he said.
The big risk is Russia pulling out, which currently does not plan to ratify the agreement until 2019.
Dr Pickering said another key reason leaving was not a good outcome was that it undermined the “principle of multilateralism” – “the idea that tough global problems need to be solved through inclusive cooperation, not unilateral action or a spaghetti bowl of bilateral deals”.
There’s still hope
The Climate Council’s Professor Tim Flannery said there were a number of reasons to remain positive.
He said Mr Trump could favour fossil fuels, but he was unable to beat economics.
“Solar and wind are now the cheapest form of new power in many countries, like Australia,” he said, and would continue to fall in price.
He also said US states were leading on climate action, including Republican stronghold Texas. Corporates were increasingly getting on board too.
The EU and China were also upping their ambitions, he said.
Another commentator who wished to remain off record until after the official announcement said that China and India were where the most important action was being taken, and together had started an unstoppable global energy revolution.