Donald Trump’s move to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement undermines American leadership and credibility and materially harms the American people.
The Paris Agreement sets the world on a course for a more just and sustainably prosperous future. It also resolves an old complaint—that high-polluting developing economies like China were not bound to action by the 1992 Climate Convention in the same way as historic polluters like the U.S. The Paris Agreement requires all nations to contribute materially to the global climate response.
What Donald Trump is doing by withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement is first and foremost to degrade US geopolitical standing—showing a profound moral failure, sowing confusion about US values and reliability, and taking away a vital tool the US could use to shape a more responsible trade dynamic across the world.
He is also, however, creating an obscene amount of new cost and risk for the United States—for government, for businesses, for the banking sector, and for households and communities.
Article 6 of the United States Constitution designates any ratified treaty as “the supreme Law of the Land.” The 1992 Convention is Constitutional law; it cannot be undone or overridden by an act of Congress or by executive action.
The First Amendment prohibits any action by Congress to limit the right to seek redress for grievances. Trump’s decision removes a structural market signal, risks diluting investment value on both sides of the energy transition, and significantly increases the burden on American businesses and institutions, while expanding their exposure to legal liability. This will impose huge additional and unnecessary costs, all to protect a handful of multinational companies’ short-term investments.
The 2007-2008 financial crisis shows us what happens when bad policy is used to make unsustainable short-term investments appear smarter and better founded than they are. To think the world will allow itself to be chained to dirty and dangerous outdated technologies or to unconstrained climate disruption is foolish.
Trump’s decision is, in fact, a betrayal of the American people and of the core mandate of the United States Constitution, which requires that we work together to
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
On each of these counts, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement sets the United States back.
- It creates the likelihood of more profound injustice,
- flouts domestic law,
- creates new security risks while undermining geopolitical influence,
- undermines the everyday wellbeing of the American people, and
- (by doing these things and worsening climate disruption) undermines human liberty now and in the future.
As in 2017, when President Trump first announced his intention to initiate a US withdrawal, this decision will strengthen the resolve of the American people—including cities, states, businesses, banks, farmers, researchers and innovators—to meet and exceed the nation’s Paris commitments. In that respect, Mr. Trump’s reckless gambit will fail.
But the rule of law, the sanctity of our national commitments, responsibility of the executive branch of government to the people, will all be undermined. And the industries, communities, and other stakeholders that require significant collaborative support in transitioning from the old polluting economy to the new clean economy, will see costs and liabilities increased.
Nearly 3/4 of all Americans see climate action as a priority, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. 155 million Americans live in jurisdictions committed to achieving Paris Agreement goals.
The people of the United States will surely work to honor our responsibilities under the Constitution, the Convention, and the Paris Agreement, and to achieve a livable climate future. Everyone, including President Trump, who behaves as if those responsibilities do not exist, will face the consequences in the marketplace, in the courts, and in the judgment of history.
Some Numbers Worth Knowing
- 72% of Americans see climate disruption as extremely, very or somewhat important. Half say they have personally experienced climate impacts.
- 77% of younger Republicans and 51% of Republicans over 39 view climate change as a serious threat.
- 155 million people live in cities and states that are part of the We Are Still In coalition, which includes 3,811 leaders, across all 50 states, with total economic output of $9.46 trillion—all committed to meeting Paris Agreement goals.
- Zero climate-disrupting emissions must be achieved by the year 2050 in major industrial economies like the U.S., to avoid simultaneous harvest failures in multiple breadbasket regions—which would undermine the global food supply and destabilize nation-states and entire regions.
- 11,000 scientists in 153 countries have declared a climate emergency and warned that “untold human suffering” is unavoidable without huge shifts in the way we live.
- A 90% reduction in climate-disrupting pollution can be achieved through carbon fee and dividend legislation, like the bipartisan Energy Innovation Act.
- 3,554 economists have signed a statement supporting carbon dividends as a way to accelerate the transition to clean energy—including 27 Nobel Laureates, all 4 living former Chairs of the Federal Reserve, 15 former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, and 2 former Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Treasury.
- $5.42 trillion in climate-smart finance has been committed so far, by financial institutions of all kinds, including major US-based commercial banks—most of it awaiting a “green light” signal to get to work.
- Join Citizens’ Climate Lobby — 155,000 volunteers, working to build political will for economically efficient, people-centered climate action.
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