Nov 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump’s exit from Paris climate agreement becomes official

Image of President Trump sitting on a ice cutout of the United States pulling away from Canada
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Call it the long goodbye from the Paris climate agreement.

Driving the news: President Trump’s 2017 announcement withdrawing America from the 2015 accord becomes official at midnight Wednesday after a prolonged process required by the United Nations. It’s a chaotic coincidence that it comes the day after Election Day.

Where it stands: The outcome of the presidential election was unclear as of midnight. If Joe Biden wins the White House, he has vowed to return to the deal.

  • Trump’s official exit from the deal would be fleeting, but America's retreat on climate change over the last four years would linger and be laborious to reverse.

The intrigue: Wednesday’s news is anticlimactic from the administration’s perspective. In Trump’s mind, he exited the deal the day he announced his intention to do so in June 2017, according to Axios’ Jonathan Swan.

  • A White House spokesperson declined to comment and referred Axios to the State Department, which has authority over global deals. The department is also not expected to mark the exit in any official way.
  • The administration took the formal step to withdraw a year ago Wednesday, per UN rules. “No additional action is required by the United States for the withdrawal to take effect,” according to a State Department statement emailed Monday.

The big picture: The United States is the only nation in the world to withdraw from the deal, which nearly all countries are a part of. Indeed, most of the world is moving ahead with varying levels of ambition to address climate change and move to cleaner sources of energy regardless of who the U.S. president is.

  • In just the last few weeks, China, South Korea and Japan have announced ambitious goals, joining those already made by Europe. Although they’re merely stated goals, they still signal intent and direction of government priority.

The bottom line: America’s next president will influence the pace and smoothness of the transition, but he will not influence whether it’s happening or not.

Go deeper: Trump’s Paris endgame is here

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