What Trump's Decision to Pull the US Out of the Paris Climate Deal Means

Global leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to mitigating emissions in light of the US's volte face, while France, Italy and Germany have said Trump won't be allowed to renegotiate on the deal's terms.

US President Donald Trump. Credit: marcn/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

US President Donald Trump. Credit: marcn/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

What does the US’s decision to pull out from the Paris Agreement mean for the other 196 countries that are part of it, as well as the 147 countries that have ratified their commitments to mitigate climate change, described by most nations as the single biggest threat the planet collectively faces? The Wire presents some responses from experts.


Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Paolo Gentiloni
Joint statement by Chancellor of Germany, President of France and Prime Minister of Italy

We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.

We are convinced that the implementation of the Paris Agreement offers substantial economic opportunities for prosperity and growth in our countries and on a global scale.

We therefore reaffirm our strongest commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, including its climate finance goals and we encourage all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change.


Hozefa Merchant
GSCC, an international network of communication professional in climate and energy

For the planet as a whole, it doesn’t mean much. Various American states have signalled their defiance of US President Donald Trump’s decision, including the the cities of Austin, Texas, and Chicago. According to the World Resources Institute, they would together be equivalent to the world’s fifth largest economy, sixth largest emitter and the twelfth most populous country – a sign that the US will continue to play an important role for advancing global climate action irrespective of the Trump administration’s actions.


The world has been rapidly decarbonising. China has been leading the way in committing to strong post-2020 targets as the world’s second largest emitter, leading a race to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The unit price for solar fall has been plummeting in India while its market is set to overtake Japan’s in 2017. According to recent auctions, solar power tariffs have fallen to Rs 2.62 per unit (Bhadla, Rajasthan), significantly lower than the average rate for coal. The National Thermal Power Corporation, a publicly owned power utility company that sources electricity from coal power plants, sells its power at Rs 3.20/kWh.

According to the draft national electricity plan for the 13th five year plan, India projects that by 2027 renewable sources of energy will cover more than half of the national energy demand. For 2016-2017, India installed 11.3 GW of new renewable energy capacity against 11.5 GW of thermal capacity. And in May 2017 alone, 13.7 GW of non-renewable capacity was removed – a fact Trump seems to have neglected while expressing his displeasure that India is allowed to double its coal-fired capacity until 2020.


Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres
Former UNFCCC Executive Secretary

The US decision to exit the Paris Agreement brings an end to all the speculation on this topic since November and now allows all the other Parties to continue their work unobstructed on the rule-book, which needs to be negotiated between now and 2020.

The real economy both in the US and internationally must and will continue its decarbonisation trend, pulled much more strongly by market forces than held back by politics. States, cities, corporations, investors have been moving in this direction for several years and the dropping prices of renewables vs. high cost of health impacts from fossils, guarantees the continuation of the transition.

In fact, it is precisely during the four years of this US administration that we need to double down on our efforts to ensure we do bend the curve of emissions by 2020.


Kofi Annan
Former UN Secretary General

Climate change is the great existential threat of our time. The Paris Agreement was born out of effective multilateralism and a desire to find a cooperative solution to a global problem. No one country can dismantle the Agreement. While the US withdrawal weakens that international accord, it will not trigger its demise. 


Ajay Mathur
Director-general, TERI, key member of the Indian delegation at COP21

Ajay Mathur

It is unfortunate that the US is pulling out of the Paris Agreement. The absence of its leadership and financial support in implementing the Agreement could delay actions to both reduce global emissions as well as to adapt to the adverse impacts of the climate change that has already occurred.

However, we believe that the positive trends in the decline of prices of renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue to drive global action to ensure that global temperature rise remains well below 2 °C.


Arunabha Ghosh
CEO of Council for Energy, Environment and Water

We must acknowledge two realities. The rest of the world will have to continue to act on climate change, regardless of what the United States does. The task will get tougher, of course, but it will also demonstrate that the Paris Agreement was a collective endeavour, not merely contingent on U.S. action or inaction. Secondly, the United States, by becoming an outlier on climate action, will also soon realise the folly of its decision – that it will lose out on investment, jobs and market opportunities in a lower carbon economy.


Anjali Jaiswal
National Resources Defence Council, India

Anjali Jaiswal

With its dispiriting apathy about climate change, the Trump administration is ceding U.S. leadership to others in the world.

India, for one, is aggressively moving ahead with climate action and clean energy development that will protect people from climate harm and boost its economy.

India is doing several hard things at once, struggling to power its fast-growing economy, lifting millions out of poverty and building a clean energy economy. This is bold leadership. 


Tom Sanzillo
Director of finance, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)

The Trump administration remains a sideshow for the most part. Traditional energy business models are still in trouble, fossil-fuel investments are riskier than ever today, and the rest of the world continues to move forward in its embrace of a new energy economy. 


Tim Buckley
Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis

Tim Buckley

IEEFA considers the Paris Climate Agreement to be a critical historic milestone, and the result has been an acceleration in investment activity, renewable cost deflation and technology development that has reached critical mass, with renewable tariffs now reaching and even falling below grid parity in an ever-widening number of countries. It is disappointing that the fossil fuel industry has achieved this self-serving outcome in the US. However, IEEFA views China and India as the two most important countries globally in terms of momentum in energy market transformation. Both are achieving economic growth rate of more than double the US; both are rapidly deploying energy efficiency, undertaking massive, transformative grid expansions and renewable energy deployments at historically unprecedented rates; and both are looking to show global leadership in terms of clean energy technology deployment, investment and financial capital. Both countries have committed to accelerating these endeavours, and to stay the course on their Paris commitments. Both reference investment and jobs, as well as the need to control pollution as primary economic and political drivers that make these decisions logical and compelling, regardless of or even taking advantage of American isolationism. 


Laurence Tubiana
CEO, European Climate Foundation

President Trump is putting his country on the wrong side of history. This decision will do damage to the US domestically and to its position globally. The fact is that the rest of the world is moving. Trump can either be part of that change or he can get out of the way, but he cannot stop it.

If anything, this sad decision will galvanise action among the nearly 200 countries that understand the need to urgently tackle climate change.


Steve Adler
Mayor of Austin, Texas, US

Austin will not stop fighting climate change. Worldwide, cities will lead in achieving climate treaty goals because so much of what’s required happens at the local level. Regardless of what happens around us, we’re still Austin, Texas.


Rahm Emanuel
Mayor of Chicago city

We cannot afford to ignore the consensus of 194 countries and the entire scientific community. Reneging on the Paris Agreement is shortsighted and does not make climate change any less real. From reducing our energy use to expanding public transit, Chicago will not skirt our responsibility to act. We will work with cities around the country to reduce our emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and urge President Trump to keep our nation’s commitment as well. 


Frank Bainimarama
Prime minister of Fiji and incoming president, COP23

Frank Bainimarama

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is deeply disappointing, especially for the citizens of vulnerable nations throughout the world.

It is also a grave disappointment for millions of people living in those areas of the United States that are threatened by the effects of climate change, whether it is the flooding that threatens cities like New York and Miami, or the periods of drought and deluge that have plagued California and other states, or the temperature rise that is affecting cities, wildlife and natural areas across the United States.

As incoming President of COP23, I did what I could – along with many leaders around the world – to try to persuade President Trump to remain standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us as, together, we tackle the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced. While the loss of America’s leadership is unfortunate, this is a struggle that is far from over.

That is because the world has reached the consensus that all nations must meet this challenge together, and we need not forgo economic growth to do so. On the contrary, solving the climate crisis through cooperation, innovation, new technologies and improved access to capital around the world will create real, sustainable economic growth for those who have the vision to make this moment of challenge a moment of opportunity.

The rest of the world remains fully committed to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. I am especially encouraged by the commitment being shown by China, India, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and the vast majority of other nations. They will continue to lead this process, with or without the support of the Trump Administration, but with the knowledge and assurance that many ordinary Americans support participation in the Paris Agreement, and that many American states, cities and businesses will continue to pursue the ambitious climate action the Agreement entails.

As incoming COP President, I reaffirm that I will do everything possible to continue to forge a grand coalition that will accelerate the momentum that has continued since the Paris Agreement, embracing governments, civil society, the private sector and millions of ordinary men and women around the world. I am also convinced that the United States Government will eventually rejoin our struggle because the scientific evidence of man-made climate change is well understood. The issue is settled, and the impacts are obvious, and humankind ignores these facts at its peril.


James Watson
CEO, SolarPower Europe

Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is one of the most irresponsible decisions from a major country in modern history. The US needs to be stepping up to lead on tackling climate change, not stepping out. The rest of the world will keep calm and carry on addressing climate change, while the US will simply miss out on the rewards that go with transitioning an economy away from fossil fuels. 


Jigar Shah
Co-founder, SunEdison

The best firms in renewable energy and efficiency are coming from the USA. Pulling out of the Paris agreement will bias foreign governments against U.S. firms, making it harder for American companies to sell their expertise around the world. 


Tom Burke
Chairman of E3G

The rest of the world has already made up its mind to make the transition out of fossil fuels and though this decision is clearly a blow to climate diplomacy it will have little effect on what happens in the real energy economy which is increasingly driven by innovation, efficiency and falling costs. 


Prof Qi Ye
Tsinghua University, Beijing

Qi Ye

The decision of the US is not expected to affect the policy or actions of China on climate change.

This is not only because climate action is consistent with China’s domestic environmental protection, but also because China is now more proactive than ever in contributing to global governance in general, and global climate governance in particular.

In fact, it is time that the international community considers a new global climate governance that works in the Trump era and beyond, no matter what the President decides.

The world cannot afford to wait for one man’s decision.


Martin Schulz
Social Democratic frontrunner for the federal elections in Germany

If we want to live up to our responsibilities towards our children and their children, then there is no reasonable alternative to a sustainable climate policy. That’s why I think it’s disastrous, if climate policy is sacrificed on the altar of short-term political and economic interests – which seems to be the combination for US President Trump.