Momentum is building in the Trump administration to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change in the coming weeks — which would put the global climate deal in danger of becoming a largely symbolic pact, rather than a meaningful move that slows the pace of global warming.
Reports that the U.S. might soon leave the Paris Agreement — the decision is far from final, but the Trump administration appears closer to leaving than it had previously — have prompted an outcry from government officials around the world, including the European Union and NATO, along with environmental groups, just as diplomats are set to meet to discuss climate change in Bonn next week. A U.S. exit would not necessarily doom the deal, but it would significantly undermine its credibility and further diminish the chances the world will meet the agreement’s target of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100.
“If one nation, especially the biggest nation … if they do not recognize a problem, then we will have trouble dealing” with climate change, General Denis Mercier, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, told Reuters.
In the White House, the exit camp has argued that remaining in the deal would threaten Trump’s domestic energy agenda. The Paris Agreement relies on voluntary non-binding commitments, and countries face no explicit penalty for failing to meet them, but lawyers in the Trump administration disagree about whether the countries can weaken their commitments. Some Trump administration officials believe it’s better to withdraw than to be stuck with commitments that conflict with Trump’s energy plans, since falling short of commitments without formally exiting the deal could leave the federal government vulnerable to legal challenges.