1. Update
  2. Environment & Energy

U.S. Abandons Climate Leadership

By Alicia Cannon, November 4, 2019


On Nov. 4, President Trump took formal action to start the yearlong process of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

The Paris Climate Agreement originally formed in 2015. The U.S. and 185 other countries promised to address climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation efforts, and climate finance. This promise was the first of its kind and finally recognized climate change as a global emergency.

At the time, President Obama committed the United States to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. He also pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which aids developing countries in their efforts to adapt to climate change.

Trump Announces Intent to Withdraw

'Experts predict there will be significant consequences to President Trump’s decision'

In June of 2017, President Trump announced his intention to fulfill one of his campaign promises by withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, which he characterized as “a deal that punishes the United States.”

His announcement meant that the U.S. would no longer maintain our efforts to achieve our emissions reduction targets, nor contribute to the Green Climate Fund. However, the earliest the United States could formally start the withdrawal process was Nov. 4, 2019.

What Happens Now

The formal withdrawal process takes a year to complete. The U.S. will not formally exit until November 2020, shortly after the 2020 Presidential Election. If a new administration wants to recommit to the Paris Agreement, it could do so at that time with 30 days notice.

Experts predict there will be significant consequences to President Trump’s decision. Some researchers fear a long-term Trump effect, in which the decision to withdraw could stall investments in clean energy, fuel other countries to disregard their emissions reduction commitments, and consequently create distrust in international agreements. As the second largest contributor to climate change, others are concerned about what this withdrawal means for our environment, atmosphere and public health.

An analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s data on air pollution by Carnegie Mellon University shows that there has been a worsening of air quality leading to 10,000 premature deaths between 2016 and 2018 in the United States. This is a reversal of a decades-long trend towards cleaner air.

A Growing Movement for Climate Justice

'For the United States to be a world leader on environmental issues, we must take responsibility for our contribution to the climate crisis, drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions and continue our contribution to the Green Climate Fund'

Since the President announced his intention to withdraw from the agreement in 2017, we have witnessed incredible growth in the movement for climate justice.

Immediately following the announcement, a new campaign called We Are Still In was formed. More than 3,500 signatories, representing a constituency of more than half of Americans, pledged to commit to the global emission reductions goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement. U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 25 governors who are committed to greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, was formed as a response to the withdrawal announcement.

Congress is also speaking out in support of the Paris Climate Agreement. This past year, we saw the passage of The Climate Action Now Act (H.R. 9) in the House, which requires the United States to meet our commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Finally, there were the historic Youth Climate Strikes in September, where millions protested to urge leaders at the U.N. Climate Summit to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. The American people want climate action, not an irresponsible abandonment of our responsibilities to the global community.

Looking Ahead

In President Trump’s 2017 speech on the Paris Climate Agreement he vowed “to ensure that America remains the world's leader on environmental issues.” For the United States to be a world leader on environmental issues, we must take responsibility for our contribution to the climate crisis, drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions and continue our contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

Press Release Faith-based organizations rebuke US withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement 

Washington, DC – As leaders of faith-based organizations, we are gravely concerned by the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Background Why the Paris Decision Matters, No Matter What Issue You Care About  

On June 1, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United Stated from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Agreement.

Alicia Cannon

  • Program Assistant, Sustainable Energy and Environment

Alicia is the Program Assistant for Sustainable Energy and Environment. She advocates for the preservation of the environment, recognition of climate change, and the enactment of legislation that promotes sustainable solutions to our current climate crisis. She meets members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to promote FCNL’s environmental policy.