President Donald Trump has privately told “confidants” he intends to leave the Paris accord on climate change, “according to three sources with direct knowledge,” Axios reported Saturday.
After persuading voters that America isn’t great anymore, Trump apparently intends to make sure of it — by having this country lead the effort to kill humanity’s last, best hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Quitting a unanimous agreement by 190+ nations after a two-decade negotiating process would make us a rogue nation, a global pariah, like Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And, it could make Putin happy, as we’ll see.
While Trump tweeted out Saturday from Italy that “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the G7 meeting, “The whole discussion about climate has been difficult, or rather very unsatisfactory.” She added, “Here we have the situation that six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one.”
Axios notes that “Although Trump made it clear during the campaign and in multiple conversations before his overseas trip that he favored withdrawal, he has been known to abruptly change his mind.” They add, however, top political appointees at EPA “were relieved” when Trump refused to join a consensus G7 statement reaffirming “their strong commitment” to the Paris accord.
While the White House’s attack on domestic climate action already undermines the global effort to avert climate catastrophe, we shouldn’t discount the importance of a U.S. withdrawal from Paris — especially if Trump teams with Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine the whole global negotiating process.
“Will Trump repay Putin by ending Russian sanctions and killing the Paris climate deal?” was a question I posed back in January, examining the growing evidence Russia helped elect Trump and questioning what kind of quid pro quo there could be. Politically, Trump can’t end the sanctions now given the explosive news of recent weeks on the FBI investigation into collusion between his campaign in Russia.
But Trump can pull out of Paris, an agreement Putin has never liked, because it means a large fraction of Russia’s fossil fuel reserves would remain in the ground, unable to provide vast revenue for him and the Kremlin. Unsurprisingly, Putin’s greenhouse gas target “is one of the weakest put forward by any government, anywhere,” as Climate Action Tracker explains. It “lies significantly above emissions that would result from current policies.”
As of May 14, the U.N. reports Russia still hasn’t ratified the deal — and Russia has said it won’t until 2019 or 2020 at the earliest. If the president of the second-largest emitter exits Paris, then the fifth-largest emitter will have a great excuse to opt out, too. Together they could deal a fatal blow to the ongoing negotiating process.
A formal decision this week seems likely.