Trump files notice to withdraw from Paris agreement, planning instead to promote fossil fuels

The notice has no legal weight and does not begin the process of departure from the landmark climate agreement.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations of its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement on Friday, explaining that the United States instead plans to work with countries to help them gain access to fossil fuels.

The notice comes two months after President Donald Trump delivered a speech at the White House announcing he would abandon the agreement. The State Department, in Friday’s notice, said the United States plans to continue to participate in international climate change negotiations and meetings, including the United Nations’ next meetings in November in Bonn, Germany.

“We will continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and technology breakthroughs, and work with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in many nationally determined contributions,” the notice reads.

The goal of expanding access to fossil fuels is part of Trump’s new “energy dominance” agenda where his administration will work with fossil fuel companies to turn the United States into an oil, natural gas, and coal exporting powerhouse. The administration also wants to continue to export fracking technology developed in the United States to other countries.

The letter sent to the United Nations has no legal weight nor does it begin the process of withdrawing the United States from the pact of nearly 200 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, it is a political document that affirms Trump’s proclamation in June that the Paris agreement is a bad deal for the nation, the New York Times reported Friday.

According to the terms of the Paris agreement, no country can begin the withdrawal process until three years after the agreement enters into force and the withdrawal would not take effect for one year after that date. The Paris agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016. Therefore, the United States cannot fully withdraw until November 4, 2020, one day after the next presidential election. The next president could decide to rejoin the agreement if Trump does not win a second term.

“It’s clear that Trump and his closest advisers have no idea how this process works nor do they care to do what’s in the best interest of the American people. If they did, Trump would not have announced his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in the first place,” Sierra Club global climate policy director John Coequyt said in a statement. Other countries like China, France, and Germany have stepped up in the absence of U.S. leadership on climate action, Coequyt noted.

Since June, the California legislature voted to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program until 2030. The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted several climate and energy resolutions advancing renewable energy, committing to sustainable infrastructure development, and standing by the Paris agreement.

A network of cities, states, businesses, and colleges have united to declare “We Are Still In,” and provide a platform for local leaders to support the commitments of the Paris agreement. The movement’s 2,275 signatories represent $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy, covering nine states, 242 cities, 1,700 businesses and investors, and 315 colleges and universities.

“The State Department note on U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement is disappointing, though not surprising,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “President Trump’s abdication of leadership is also clearly isolating the United States on the international stage, as we saw at the recent G7 and G20 summits.”

Half of U.S. voters are against Trump’s environmental policies and just one in four voters favors Trump’s environmental agenda, according to the League of Conservation Voters poll released in June.

The State Department’s notice contains “nothing new” on Trump’s policy, said Lou Leonard senior vice president of climate change and energy for the World Wildlife Fund. “The good news is the rest of America has already moved on to pick up the mantle of leadership and seize the opportunities of the clean energy economy,” Leonard said in a statement. Thousands of American CEOs, university presidents, governors, and mayors have decided to fill the gap left by the federal government, he said.