Donald Trump Withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement: The World Responds

After teasing and tormenting his fellow world leaders and pledging an announcement only sometime this week, finally on Thursday – in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded by anti-environmentalists for the sort of bathetic display which has come to characterise every administrative ‘success’ – Donald Trump confirmed that he is pulling the United States out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

The agreement sets the goal of limiting global warming to ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels, asking parties to pursue efforts towards a limit of 1.5°C. Signed after weeks of negotiation in December 2015, it marked the first global commitment towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Of all the countries in the world, only two failed to sign up to the deal: Syria, beset by war, and Nicaragua, which argued that the deal was insufficient.

While the agreement compels countries to take swift action, there is no method for enforcing compliance, and each country is responsible for setting its own targets. Under President Barack Obama, the United States had committed to emissions cuts of 26-28% relative to 2005 levels by 2025. However Donald Trump has already signed an executive order which seeks to undo the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. And as Thursday’s announcement drew near, his decision hardly seemed in doubt.

Trump argued that the agreement as it stands discriminates against the United States in favour of China and India, and would hurt businesses and jobs – in spite of the fact that the renewable sector already employs more people than fossil fuels, a trend which promises economic growth beyond saving the environment. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016, stipulating three years of membership. A subsequent one-year notice period suggests that the United States will only be able to complete its withdrawal in November 2020, after the next presidential election.

Whether it is regarded as a serious policy move or a blustering gesture, with far-off consequences meant to placate his rabidly small-minded base, here is how the rest of the world responded to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

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‘A year and a half ago, the world came together in Paris around the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.

It was steady, principled American leadership on the world stage that made that achievement possible. It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well. And what made that leadership and ambition possible was America’s private innovation and public investment in growing industries like wind and solar — industries that created some of the fastest new streams of good-paying jobs in recent years, and contributed to the longest streak of job creation in our history.

The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.’

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

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‘The President who promised ‘America First’ has taken a self-destructive step that puts our nation last. This is an unprecedented forfeiture of American leadership which will cost us influence, cost us jobs, and invite other countries to walk away from solving humanity’s most existential crisis.

It isolates the United States after we had united the world.

In 2015, because of American leadership, nearly 200 countries came together around a science-based agreement to grapple with a global threat. For a President to follow that historic step forward by unilaterally walking backwards from science and backwards from leadership on behalf of polluters and fringe ideologues may be the most self-defeating action in American history.

Among the only two other countries who didn’t sign on to Paris, one thought it didn’t go far enough and one is embroiled in a bloody civil war. What’s our excuse?

In public service, there are tough calls that can go either way. This wasn’t one of them. For our economy, security, leadership, competitiveness, and health, the clear-cut choice was to remain in the Paris Agreement. There is only one reason to instead make this choice: an ignorant, cynical appeal to an anti-science, special-interest faction far outside the mainstream. That is no basis for a decision that will affect billions of lives.

Those of us who have spent a lifetime fighting on this issue know that America pulling out of Paris will not only result in lost leadership, it will also result in lost momentum. If the world doesn’t press forward faster, we’ll see stronger storms, longer and more intense droughts, more wildfires, more strains on agriculture and fishing, a swell of climate refugees, and, as military brass has been warning for years, intensified conflict around the world. This choice will rightly be remembered as one of the most shameful any president has made. It is a global stain on our credibility that we will spend years, if not decades, working to remove.

The president’s abdication of responsibility complicates the U.S. climate effort, but it doesn’t kill it. Today is the day for cities, states, and businesses of all sizes to publicly commit to ‘Live by Paris.’ I urge concerned citizens across America to join in this effort. Together, we can join the world by honoring the Paris Agreement, despite President Trump’s willful ignorance. Twenty-nine states have passed renewal portfolio standard laws. Another eight have adopted voluntary renewable standards. In total, those 37 states represent 80 percent of the U.S. population. America doesn’t have to cede leadership even if its President has. America will not abandon the global community and put its children and grandchildren at risk. While Donald Trump may turn his back on facts and science, America will not.’

John Kerry,  68th United States Secretary of State and signee of the Paris Climate Agreement

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‘President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace. At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations. 

The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.’

– Bernie Sanders, United States Senator for Vermont

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‘Donald Trump and his children said just a few years ago that climate change was ‘irrefutable’ and its consequences ‘catastrophic and irreversible.’ They were right. There is no denying the growing threat of rising seas, warming global temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice sheets. 

But we can still avoid the worst if we quickly reduce carbon emissions. That is why ignoring reality and leaving the Paris Agreement could go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the U.S. further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip.  

Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers’ climate denial operation. It’s sad.

America’s biggest corporations and investors urged the President to stick with international efforts to address the climate threat. They and all of us will now have to proceed with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the threat, knowing of this President’s grave defects.

If you haven’t joined an environmental group, join one. If your voice needs to be heard, get active.  If you are a big corporation with good climate policies that has shied away from engaging politically, it’s time to engage. And if you’re a university that teaches climate science, it’s time to stand up for your scientists. Whoever you are, help end climate denial and take action.’

– Sheldon Whitehouse, United States Senator for Rhode Island, member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Co-Chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force

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‘I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states. Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.’

– Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington

‘The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change, New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.’

– Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York

‘The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion, I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.’

– Jerry Brown, Governor of California, as the three governors announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance

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‘We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.’

The 246 mayors, representing more than 56 million Americans, who are members of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda

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‘President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a devastating failure of historic proportions. Future generations will look back on President Trump’s decision as one of the worst policy moves made in the 21st century because of the huge damage to our economy, our environment and our geopolitical standing. Pulling out of the Paris agreement doesn’t put America first, it puts America last in recognizing science, in being a world leader and protecting our own shore line, our economy and our planet. It’s now crystal clear President Trump is comfortable both ceding the moral high ground and the economic upper hand to countries like China, and endangering the future of our planet.

The idea of searching for a new deal is a fig leaf. If you truly believe in improving the Paris Agreement, you don’t back out – you work with our allies and partners around the world. This has the same hollow ring as President Trump’s and Congressional Republicans’ false assertion that repealing the Affordable Care Act will improve healthcare. Democrats will do everything we can to undo what President Trump has done and prevent further regression. I seriously hope the President reconsiders this awful decision.’

– Chuck Schumer, United States Senator for New York and Senate Minority Leader

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‘Removing the United States from the Paris Agreement is a reckless and indefensible action. It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time. But make no mistake: if President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.

 Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors, and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge. We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president, but no matter what he does, we will ensure that our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy continues.’

– Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the United States and Chair of The Climate Reality Project

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‘We certainly do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement. If we don’t do anything, we might shoot over 5 degrees or more and that would be catastrophic.’

– Erwan Monier and John Reilly, lead researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

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‘Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.’

– Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX and co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc

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‘As a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal.’

Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of Walt Disney

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‘Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.’

Jeff Immelt, Chaiman and CEO of General Electric

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‘We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.

While the U.S. decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies. We are proud that Canada stands united with all the other parties that support the Agreement. We will continue to work with our domestic and international partners to drive progress on one of the greatest challenges we face as a world.

This is not only about the huge economic opportunities of clean growth and the need to address the pressing threats of climate change. This is about an ambitious and unshakeable desire to leave a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for our kids and for generations to come.

We are all custodians of this world, and that is why Canada will continue to work with the U.S. at the state level, and with other U.S. stakeholders, to address climate change and promote clean growth. We will also continue to reach out to the U.S. federal government to discuss this matter of critical importance for all humankind, and to identify areas of shared interest for collaboration, including on emissions reductions.’

– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

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‘We, the Heads of State and of Government of France, Germany and Italy, take note with regret of the decision by the United States of America to withdraw from the universal agreement on climate change. The Paris Agreement remains a cornerstone in the cooperation between our countries, for effectively and timely tackling climate change and for implementing the 2030 Agenda sustainable development goals.

We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies. We are convinced that the implementation of the Paris Agreement offers substantial economic opportunities for prosperity and growth in our countries and on a global scale.

We therefore reaffirm our strongest commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, including its climate finance goals and we encourage all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change. We will step up efforts to support developing countries, in particular the poorest and most vulnerable, in achieving their mitigation and adaptation goals.’

– Paolo Gentiloni, Prime Minister of Italy, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

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‘To all scientists, engineers, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them: Come and work here with us – to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.

I call on you to remain confident. We will succeed because we are fully committed, because wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make our planet great again.’

– Emmanuel Macron, President of France

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‘It’s as if they’ve turned their back on the wisdom of humanity. In addition to being disappointed, I’m also angry.’

– Koichi Yamamoto, Environment Minister of Japan

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‘Fighting climate change is a global consensus, it’s not invented by China […] and we realise that this is a global consensus agreement and that as a big developing nation we should shoulder our international responsibility.’

– Li Keqiang, Premier of the People’s Republic of China

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‘Efforts to slow climate change are a moral imperative.’

– Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico

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‘The international community regards climate change as the single biggest threat to wellbeing, health and socio-economic development facing humanity this century. Its impacts are widespread, unprecedented and disproportionately burdens to the poorest and most vulnerable.

South Africa therefore expresses its profound regret over the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which reflects the multilateral agreement to keep global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees celsius.

The adoption of the Paris Agreement, 15 years after the withdrawal of the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, is a victory for multilateral effort to curb climate change. The Agreement entered into force far earlier than expected due to the extraordinary speed of ratification by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the United States, and reflects the scientific consensus on severity of the crisis.

The Paris Agreement, which will be fully operational by 2020, is premised on contributions determined by countries themselves, towards collectively agreed global goals. These nationally determined contributions are to represent countries’ best effort, and to be progressively enhanced over time.

It is further premised on a strong understanding that we all have a common responsibility to act, whilst noting that nations over time have contributed to the problem differently, and have varied capabilities to respond. The Paris Agreement represents the most flexible and dynamic approach to addressing climate change, and the withdrawal of the USA is not only an abdication of global responsibility we all have to humankind, but damaging to multilateralism, the rule of law and trust between nations.

Historically, the US has contributed significantly to global emissions, and therefore has a moral obligation not only to lead in reducing emissions, but to support poorer economies in contributing to the global effort.

South Africa has full confidence in and reiterates its unwavering commitment to the realization of the goals set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement. The global effort to curb climate change and address its impacts cannot be postponed. There is an urgent need for action, and as such there is no space for renegotiation.

South Africa has full confidence that the momentum of the collective effort to address climate change will only accelerate. We recognise the outstanding contribution made to the fight against climate change in the US by past Administrations, states, cities, scientific organisations, civil society, business and individual citizens. South Africa therefore calls on the United States to reconsider its position and to re-commit to the multilateral process.’

– South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs

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‘As a low-lying, island city-state, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change and we have a deep interest in global efforts to address potential disruptions to natural ecosystems and human societies.

As a small country, we have also staunchly supported the rules-based multilateral system, and upheld the critical role of diplomacy in solving problems on the global commons.

We believe that a global approach towards dealing with climate change is the best chance the international community has at effectively addressing its effects. We remain committed to undertaking the measures needed to achieve our Paris pledge, including implementing a carbon tax from 2019.’

Singapore National Climate Change Secretariat

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‘Our government is committed irrespective of the stand of anyone, anywhere in the world. We are committed to ensuring that we will do our best to address the issue related to climate change and global warming.’

Harsh Vardhan, Environment Minister of India

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‘Today’s decision is not only disappointing, but also highly concerning for those of us that live on the frontline of climate change. As one of the United States’ closest friends and strongest allies we have long believed in the importance of US global leadership. The rest of the world remains firmly committed to the Paris Agreement and our own commitment to it, and that of our wider Pacific family, will never waiver.’

– Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands

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‘The decision by the Trump Administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is deeply disappointing, especially for the citizens of vulnerable nations throughout the world.

It is also a grave disappointment for millions of people living in those areas of the United States that are threatened by the effects of climate change, whether it is the flooding that threatens cities like New York and Miami, or the periods of drought and deluge that have plagued California and other states, or the temperature rise that is affecting cities, wildlife and natural areas across the United States.

As incoming President of COP23, I did what I could – along with many leaders around the world – to try to persuade President Trump to remain standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us as, together, we tackle the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced. While the loss of America’s leadership is unfortunate, this is a struggle that is far from over.

That is because the world has reached the consensus that all nations must meet this challenge together, and we need not forgo economic growth to do so. On the contrary, solving the climate crisis through cooperation, innovation, new technologies and improved access to capital around the world will create real, sustainable economic growth for those who have the vision to make this moment of challenge a moment of opportunity.

The rest of the world remains fully committed to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. I am especially encouraged by the commitment being shown by China, India, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and the vast majority of other nations. They will continue to lead this process, with or without the support of the Trump Administration, but with the knowledge and assurance that many ordinary Americans support participation in the Paris Agreement, and that many American states, cities and businesses will continue to pursue the ambitious climate action the Agreement entails.

As incoming COP President, I reaffirm that I will do everything possible to continue to forge a grand coalition that will accelerate the momentum that has continued since the Paris Agreement, embracing governments, civil society, the private sector and millions of ordinary men and women around the world. I am also convinced that the United States Government will eventually rejoin our struggle because the scientific evidence of man-made climate change is well understood. The issue is settled, and the impacts are obvious, and humankind ignores these facts at its peril.’

– Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and the incoming president of the next annual UN Convention on Climate Change conference, COP23

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‘The decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security. It is crucial that the United States remains a leader on environmental issues.’

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

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‘Today is a sad day for the global community, as a key partner turns its back on the fight against climate change. The EU deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement brought us together in very challenging times. It is an unprecedented multilateral partnership between nearly 200 countries, supported by companies and communities across the world, to address a problem that threatens us all. It demonstrates our generation’s responsibility towards this and future generations. 

The Paris Agreement is fit for purpose. Paris is ambitious yet not prescriptive. The Paris Agreement allows each Party to forge its own path to contributing to the goals of preventing dangerous climate change. So there is room for the US to chart its own course within the Paris Agreement. 195 countries have signed the Paris Agreement, 195 different paths to meeting the Paris goals.

The Paris Agreement will endure. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change. Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable.

The EU will strengthen its existing partnerships and seek new alliances from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. This partnership will of course include the many US businesses, citizens and communities that have voiced their support for Paris and are taking ambitious climate action. Together, we will stand by Paris, we will implement Paris. 

We will do this because it is in our common interest.  We see the Paris Agreement and the low-carbon transition for what it is, the irreversible growth engine of our economies and the key to protecting our planet.

Today’s announcement has galvanised us rather than weakened us, and this vacuum will be filled by new broad committed leadership. Europe and its strong partners all around the world are ready to lead the way. We will work together to face one of the most compelling challenges of our time.

We will do it, together. We are on the right side of history.’

– Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commission Climate Action and Energy Commissioner

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‘It is deeply disappointing to see the US shirking its responsibilities as a member of the global community. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change with record droughts, flooding and heat waves recently faced around the world. For LDCs the impacts are especially devastating; as the poorest countries in the world we are highly vulnerable but the least capable to respond to the threat of climate change. By refusing to commit to ambitious action on climate change President Trump is showing disregard for the lives of millions around the world.

In Paris the world united with a call for climate action and the wave of momentum now behind the Agreement cannot be slowed by one country deciding to sit on the sidelines. Many countries have taken up the mantle of global climate leadership through ambitious climate policies and innovation, and the US has lost a seat at this table.

The international community won’t wait for the US to catch up. Transformations in technology, consumption patterns and demand for clean, green innovations are charging ahead of political will around the world. Countries are learning that taking advantage of these innovations is not only smart for the climate, but smart for the economy. Joining the transition to a green economy means embracing business opportunities that are beneficial for all.

The US is only one country. I urge global leaders not to let President Trump’s decision to distract us from the important work we need to do to achieve the vital goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. I also invite President Trump to reconsider his decision. Let us continue to work together to build a safe world for present and future generations.’

– Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the Least Developed Countries group, which represents nearly one billion people in the 48 poorest countries in the world

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‘We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more – and they won’t be. I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.’

– Donald Trump, 45th and current President of the United States