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Is Donald Trump Allowed to Pull Out of Paris Climate Deal? Here's a Primer

The US is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world and the country’s backing out will prove to be a huge stumbling block in the deal


Updated:June 1, 2017, 11:47 AM IST
Is Donald Trump Allowed to Pull Out of Paris Climate Deal? Here's a Primer
The Arc de Triomphe is illuminated in green with the words 'Paris Agreement is Done', to celebrate the Paris UN COP21 Climate Change agreement in 2015. (Photo Credit: Reuters/ File Photo)

New Delhi: The Paris Climate Agreement is a deal between 195 countries, drawn up in 2015, to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he will announce his decision on whether to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord during a Rose Garden event on Friday.

The US is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world and the country’s backing out will prove to be a huge stumbling block in the deal. US President Donald Trump had said that India, Russia and China are contributing ‘nothing’ to the ‘one-sided’ Paris climate deal. He said the US was being unfairly targeted by asking to pay money. Let’s try and understand the deal and the US’ stance better:

What is the Paris climate deal?

The 2015 agreement required countries to adopt a plan to tackle greenhouse gas emission, embrace clean energy and phase out fossil fuels. Every nation had to come up with their own individual plan in that regard and meet regularly in order to review, prod each other to do better.

The plan submitted by the Obama administration set the goals at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% - 28% by 2025, from the 2005 levels.

India had planned that it would continue to reduce its CO2 output per unit of economic activity.

The Paris deal was different from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol as unlike its predecessor, the 2015 deal was non-binding in its implementations and adjustments. The UN thought that through peer pressure and diplomacy, the policies could be strengthened over time.

ALSO READ | Elon Musk Threatens to Leave Trump's Panels if He Pulls Out of Climate Deal

How and Why is the US withdrawing from the deal?

When former US President Barack Obama signed the executive order confirming the US's adoption of the agreement, his administration didn't submit it to Congress for approval. That's how the Trump administration is able to ‘cancel’ the US's commitment to the accord.

Also as the deal is nonbinding, there are no penalties if the United States pulls out.

The Trump administration can invoke the accord’s formal withdrawal mechanism, which takes four years — though American officials could stop participating in any future climate talks immediately.

Donald Trump, during his election campaign, had promised to withdraw from the carbon reduction agreement citing negative effects on jobs in areas where he won a large percentage of the votes, including states in the Rust Belt and the western plains.

Trump had claimed that it the estimation for compliance with the agreement could ultimately shrink America's GDP by $2.5 trillion over a 10-year period.

Currently, Syria and Nicaragua are the only two countries not participating in the accord.

ALSO READ | Quitting Climate Deal to 'Hurt' Donald Trump's Jobs Push

What would a withdrawal mean?

If the US moves out of the accord, Europe, China and many other countries might hold back on cooperating in policies that the Trump administration cares about. India, China and Europe has said that they will continue to work towards reducing greenhouse gas emission regardless of the US’ stance. The situation could become extreme, wherein the countries might impose carbon tariffs on the US.

Although the US would globally be doing much less for the environment if it pulls out of the accord, states like California and New York plan to keep pursuing their own programmes to clean up power plants and vehicles. With a much more environmentally conscious generation, than ever before, the private sector is also moving toward alternative and cleaner fuels.

A ripple effect of the move though might just hamper the efforts of other countries. As the US takes an industry-first approach, companies in other countries might reduce or altogether chuck their efforts in order to not fall behind in terms of competition.

ALSO READ | India Should Lead by Example if US Withdraws from Paris Climate Accord

Regardless of the decision taken by Donald Trump, the retraction from the deal is also not permanent. A future government, if it so chooses, could always reverse the pull-out and decide to join back in.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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