In his 6/1 Paris Accords withdrawal announcement, President Trump ignored most of his advisors, including his Secretaries of Defense, State and Treasury (but not his EPA advisor who agreed with withdrawal). These advisors understood that a decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords would represent one more blow to America’s role as a world leader and would further loosen the binding ties between the US and our European and Asian allies. Combined with the damage from Trump’s NATO visit, and withdrawal from the TPP, grave damage has been done to US standing in the world. This is not just symbolic; soft power and influence should not be underestimated as tools in promoting alliances keeping in place rules and institutions established by the US over the past 70 years. These institutions have formed a framework for world peace and relative financial stability. Given the fragile state of world order (exacerbated in part by poor policies of the Bush and Obama administrations, one too aggressive, the other too timid), further disorder caused by a bullying and isolated US will not likely benefit US interests in the long run.
But back to the Paris Accords.
In his reasoning for abandoning them, Trump indicated that the US economy would suffer “draconian financial and economic burdens” imposed by the treaty. However the treaty is non-binding. Nations are responsible for coming up with their own plans and targets. These standards and targets can be revised at any time. Trump could simply have indicated that his administration would review US standards and targets, now or in the future.
Furthermore, the treaty does not impose penalties of any kind on nations who do not meet their stated targets. So how can the treaty therefore cause “draconian financial and economic burdens”? Or that “believe me, it causes the US massive legal liability if we stay in.” The answer is – the treaty does not; this is factually inaccurate – a lie if you like.
As for renegotiation, the 190 nations who agreed to the treaty (all but 3 countries in the world) are not going to renegotiate it, and given its non-binding, flexible nature, it doesn’t need to be renegotiated. Nations simply can change their targets. Europeans have already told the US that renegotiation is not going to happen. No doubt Trump will continue to talk about renegotiation; this is hogwash. It isn’t going to happen.
Trump’s assumptions as to the financial burden on the US, are wildly exaggerated, and do not count the long-term damage that could incur to the US through loss of momentum in investment in what is a fast-growing area of the economy – renewable energy. Should we cede leadership in the renewable energy sector, which will happen as we relax Clean Energy targets, the costs may be much larger in the long run than burdens from participating and competing in what will be a global market for new tools and energy techniques.
Trumps’s assertion that Paris could cost Americans as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025,” is simply Trumped up. A number of studies have come out carefully examining the National Economics Research Associates study. “The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lowered GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income and in many cases, much worse than that.” These statistics are biased and bear no relation to reality, according to studies of the study, which note its faulty assumptions. In addition, current trends with the low price of natural gas, improved efficiency of renewable energy, and growth in gas efficiency and electric powered vehicles, mean the US may still experience reduced carbon use, close to its targets.
In short, this Trump move, like the withdrawal from the TPP, are ill-advised decisions which cede leadership, with no gains to the US in return, to the Chinese. If Trump thinks that a world order dictated by the Chinese, who do not prefer our standards of openness and whose interests run contrary to the US, will somehow benefit the US, he is badly mistaken. But the issue is not that he is making a mistake; it is that US citizens, the ones who voted for him and ones who didn’t, will suffer for his errors.