The US officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement two and a half years after President Donald Trump announced plans to pull out of the world’s most ambitious environmental pact.
The withdrawal of the world’s second largest carbon dioxide emitter from the agreement with 189 states is a milestone in a presidency that has pushed through a weakening of environmental regulations and support for the fossil fuel sector. Mr Trump has described the pact as a deal that “penalizes the US for the exclusive benefit of other countries.”
Under then-President Barack Obama, the United States played a central role in developing the 2015 agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2 ° C.
The US exit, the culmination of a bureaucratic process started a year ago, will be completed automatically and will not depend on the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election, which remains uncertain.
However, if Democratic challenger Joe Biden becomes president, the US could quickly rejoin the Paris Agreement. Mr Biden has announced that he will do so on his first day in office.
“If Biden wins, the fact that the November 4th withdrawal became final doesn’t matter,” said Todd Stern, who was the leading US climate negotiator during the Obama administration. “If Trump wins a second term, it will have a much more lasting effect.”
The US is the only country that has officially left the Paris Agreement, although several other nations, including Brazil, have talked about leaving.
China is one of the signatories to the Paris Agreement, which announced in September that it would become climate neutral by 2060. Japan and South Korea have also announced net-zero targets in recent weeks.
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Mr Biden has promised a $ 2 billion climate protection package and announced that he will introduce a net zero emissions target for the US by 2050. He will also seek to make electricity generation emission-free by 2035, which would make coal and gas shutter-fired power plants.
During his tenure, Mr. Trump has focused on easing environmental regulations, including watering down the emission standards for vehicles set by the Obama administration.
“If Trump wins, there is unlikely to be much immediate change in their attitude towards the climate,” said Sarah Ladislaw, director of the climate change program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.
“It is very likely that other countries with ambitious emissions reduction targets like the EU and China will try to influence US behavior through cross-border carbon tariffs and influence the global financial system to accommodate climatic considerations,” she added.
The UK and Italy, who are hosting the next round of climate negotiations known as COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, are awaiting the outcome of the US elections to finalize their strategy for the upcoming negotiations.
Topics at issue include creating global carbon markets – which a Biden government would support – and increasing climate donations from rich to poor countries.
Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and previously a clean energy advisor to the UN Secretary-General, said the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was a setback.
“The withdrawal has done permanent damage to the way the rest of the world views the US as a reliable partner, not only in terms of the climate but also in relation to other global cooperation issues,” she said.
However, she added that state-level climate commitments, coupled with falling renewable energy prices, had helped mitigate the worst of the Trump administration’s climate change policies on carbon emissions.