President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord has gone from being “apocalyptic” to “the best available outcome.”
Trump’s withdrawal from Pairs means he can’t undermine it from the inside, Lindsay Iversen, the associate director of climate and resources at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a blog post.
It’s an abrupt reversal from opinions held by former Obama administration officials, foreign policy experts, Democrats and environmentalists — all of whom urged Trump to remain in the Paris accord, which the Obama administration joined in 2016.
Democrats decried Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, and and Democratic-controlled states and cities vowed to circumvent the president’s decision. Former Vice President Al Gore called Trump’s decision a “reckless and indefensible action.”
“Donald Trump’s decision on Thursday to abandon the Paris Agreement is apocalyptic,” wrote John Sutter, CNN’s climate and social justice columnist. “That’s not overstatement when the very health and survival of the planet is at stake.”
Iversen preferred the U.S. remain in the deal, but not with Trump as commander and chief. She argued that given the options, the “best available path was the path out the door.”
“Let us be clear,” Iversen wrote. “Leaving the Paris agreement is a major blow to the United States. It will emerge from this decision weakened, out of step with its allies and commanding diminished respect. But the Paris agreement itself might just survive. And for that, we should say: Good.”
Iversen said arguments from former Obama administration officials who helped negotiate the Paris accord only served to undermine it more. Former Obama administration climate diplomat Todd Stern argued Trump could reduce the U.S. Paris pledge, but Iversen said this would only weaken the agreement.
The Obama administration pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Some Republicans suggested Trump should remain in Paris and lower the U.S.’s commitment, but it wasn’t clear if that would be accepted by United Nations members.
“Even nominal supporters of Paris inside the administration were, in essence, advocating its quiet destruction,” Iversen wrote.
“The pledges are voluntary but the spirit of the words is clear: countries should aim to make deeper emissions cuts over time,” she wrote. “Preserving that spirit is critical to the future success of the accord.”
“If a major participant in the deal erodes those norms – by challenging the implicit expectation that pledges will become more ambitious over time and reducing its pledges for pedestrian political reasons – it invites other signatories to do the same,” Iversen wrote. “The strength and resiliency of the deal’s structure, now fueled by the shared commitment of all signatories, could instead rot quickly from within.”
Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris accord in early June, calling the agreement a bad deal for American workers.
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” Trump said, specifically referring to China and India.
“The agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America,” Trump said, “and ships them to other countries.”
Conservative activists and some members of the Trump administration worked behind the scenes to hold Trump to his campaign promise to ditch the Paris accord. They were up against multinational corporations, the oil and gas industry and the State Department — all of whom favored remaining in the Paris agreement.
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