Within a twenty-four hour period, the Trump administration relied inconsistent messages with the world on the United States position on the Paris Climate Agreement. On Sunday, September 17th, the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, implied that President Donald Trump was considering not leaving the Paris Climate Agreement as he originally announced in June. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Tillerson said, “I think under the right conditions, the president said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue.” However, National Security Advisor H.R McMaster told Fox News the same day a very different message. “The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it’s a bad deal for the American people and it’s a bad deal for the environment,” McMaster told reporters. On Monday, September 18th, Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor told reporters after a breakfast at the United Nations Conference, “we made the president’s position unambiguous, to where the president stands, where the administration stands on Paris…We are withdrawing from the Paris Agreement unless we can re-engage on terms more favourable to the United States. This position was made very clear during the breakfast.”
UN leaders, including former President Barack Obama, signed the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015. The goal of the act is for each country to agree to play their role in limiting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing further climate change. Trump announced his plans for the United States to leave the Paris Climate Agreement in June 2017. Since then, many countries have denounced the United States’ decision and several other leaders in the United States have announced their continued participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. In June 2017, over seven thousand mayors from across the United States have agreed to have their cities remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, forming the Global Covenant of Mayors. Until recently, Trump has remained strongly opposed to the Paris Climate Agreement, siding with other climate change deniers in the Republican Party.
The United States cannot actually leave the Paris Climate Agreement until 2020, the same year President Trump will need to run for reelection. Still, Trump insists the United States needs to leave and reenter the Paris Climate Agreement after negotiations. However, Trump has been unclear as to what he hopes to negotiate and how he plans on starting those negotiations. Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commissioner and Co-Chair for the Global Covenant of Mayors, warns that Europe will not negotiate with Trump. “I have to say that now we have to be very pragmatic. We work very closely with the states like California, like Washington, like New York and many others, and have a strong alliance … We are not going to renegotiate the Paris Agreement. Now is not the time to negotiate, it is time to implement.” Many other European countries have echoed similar remarks, noting Trump and the United States will face penalties for dismissing the Paris Climate Agreement.
The future of the Paris Climate Agreement and the role of the United States are still unknown. Though Trump claims he will remain against the act, he has shown in the past to be inconsistent based on his own self-interest. Like most policies under the Trump administration, Trump and his allies do not actually have a plan to improve the Paris Climate Agreement. They have not made it clear what reentering would look like, nor how they would convince other countries that they should re-enter. Rather, the Paris Agreement is just another example of Trump trying to erase President Obama’s legacy and appeal to the supporters that got him elected, no matter the cost. In the past month, the world has experienced disastrous weather as a result of climate change. To ignore the science and act selfishly to appeal to politicians is shortsighted and dangerous. Hopefully, the remarks given by Tillerson prove to be true; the United States must remain a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, not only for their own benefit, but for the future of the planet.