Trade Briefs

The significance of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

The significance of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

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07 Jun 2017

Author(s): Gavin van der Nest

The Paris Agreement is an international deal between 195 participating countries to gradually decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions directly linked to climate change. It aspires to prevent global average temperature increases of more than 2°Celsius which would have devastating effects of raising sea levels, causing major droughts, leading to more severe storms, threatening global food security and geopolitical stability. Already, 147 Parties of the 197 Parties to the convention have ratified the Agreement. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.

President Barack Obama committed the United States to lowering emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. These targets were not fixed and the broad aim was to increase them over time. Developed countries play an important role in the success of the Agreement. These economies have historically contributed more to emissions and are to help finance developing countries’ transition to cleaner forms of energy without stymying their potential economic growth. The plan is to raise $100 billion per year through a mix of public and private sources to finance this transition. By the end of 2016, Obama had already transferred $1 billion of an initial commitment of $3 billion to the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) before leaving office.

President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017. The recent spending deal of the US Congress, which will fund the government through September 2017, has left out any contributions to the Fund. The US could, however, have stayed in the Paris accord even when opting not to pay into the GCF or to impose emissions cuts. Outside of the Paris Agreement the US will not be able to drive the climate change agenda, proposals, ideas or innovations. There will be serious diplomatic damage from the withdrawal as countries throughout the world see climate change as a substantial threat and recognise that in order to meet this global threat an effective global regime is needed.


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