US formally exits Paris pact on climate change

Katie Ramirez
November 5, 2020

The departure makes the United States the only country of 197 signatories to have withdrawn from the agreement, hashed out in 2015.

Climate scientists have warned the unless drastic action is taken, global temperatures may rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, triggering a series of catastrophic climate tipping points by the end of the century. And because of technicalities in the worldwide pact, November 4 is the earliest a country can withdraw.

Trump described the pledge that the US entered, which was to reduce greenhouse gases 26% to 28% by 2025, as a "massive redistribution of United States wealth" that would "undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty [and] impose unacceptable legal risk".

Eleven years ago, the world was on pace to add about another 2.8 degrees Celsius of warming.

Staff working for Biden's provisional presidential transition have already been hard at work developing a forward-looking clean-energy strategy aimed at protecting USA citizens from the effects of climate change, a concern that exit polling showed was ranked as a serious issue by two-thirds of all voters, especially younger ones, whether they supported Trump or Biden.

If America pulls back from Paris and stronger carbon-cutting efforts, some nations are less likely to cut back too, so the withdrawal's impact will be magnified, said scientists and climate negotiators.

The fate of the U.S. participation in the Paris agreement now rests on the outcome of the presidential election. "They're not negotiated. They're accepted".

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he favours signing the U.S. back up to the Paris accord.

The US is the world's second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after China, producing around 15 percent of the world's total carbon dioxide emission. In recent weeks, China, Japan and South Korea have joined the European Union (EU) and other countries in setting national targets to stop pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because it was set up as an executive agreement, not a treaty, congressional approval is not required, Purvis said.

The European Union is now debating a package of proposals, known as the EU New Green Deal, that would include a so-called carbon border adjustment, aimed at preventing companies from dodging emissions reduction efforts in the 27-nation bloc by manufacturing goods in places without stringent measures.

Germany, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said it was important for Europe to lead by example now that the United States had left the pact.

The United States still remains a party to the UNFCCC. More than 60 countries cut emissions by higher percentages than the that time period, according to global data.

While the Trump administration has shunned federal measures to cut emissions, Seibert noted that US states, cities and businesses have pressed ahead with their own efforts.

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