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How the US and the world are already defying Trump on Paris


So, despite the efforts of world leaders, despite the case made by his own Secretary of State (a former fossil fuel company boss), his Defence Secretary and, we understand, his own daughter, and despite pleas from US businesses, Donald Trump is withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement. The fightback, however, is already on…

The People's Climate March, NYC, USA © WWF Intl. / Greg Marinovich / The StandThe People’s Climate March, NYC, USA © WWF Intl. / Greg Marinovich / The Stand

Stepping back from a leadership role on climate change, the US now joins Nicaragua and Syria – the two countries who chose not to sign up to Paris in the first place. This is bad news.

For the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases not to be part of international efforts to tackle climate change – when almost the rest of the planet has committed to try and keep warming to 1.5 degrees – is unconscionable.  We should shake our heads, stamp our feet, shout and, obviously, tweet

But what will the impact really be? Can Trump really change the course of history on tackling climate change?


Huge energy (clean and fossil), food and tech companies have told Trump that the US should remain in the Paris deal– arguing both that it’s the right thing, and the economically sound thing to do. There are more US jobs in solar than coal, and some of the highest densities of investment and jobs in clean energy are in red states like Texas and Oklahoma.  So if America backs away from investing in clean energy development to deliver on the Paris Agreement, what happens to those jobs and that investment?

The Paris Agreement © IISD ReportingThe Paris Agreement © IISD Reporting

Well, maybe it’s not such bad news for Americans. As the EU and China announce collaboration to fill the vacuum left by the US, are those companies really going to withdraw their investment and leave the way clear for Chinese and European companies to step in and reap the benefits and profits instead? I suspect not. And as it’s those investments that are needed to deliver on what was in Obama’s now-repealed Clean Power Plan, maybe the knock-on implications of Trump’s Paris pull-out are not so bad for the world either.

States and cities

Not just businesses – what of individual US states? Some of these are huge global actors in their own right. California, whose GDP would be in the world’s top ten if it were a nation and New York (which would be in the top 15), are leading the way in the US with ambitions to cut emissions by far more than the US committed to in its soon-to-be-obsolete Paris contribution. If states stick to their plans, as they’ve said they intend to, then is a US withdrawal from Paris such bad news? This is especially so given how many US cities express similar commitments, their mayors joining colleagues from cities all over the world to express global leadership on climate change.

Solar power plant, California, USA © Kevin Schafer / WWFSolar power plant, California, USA © Kevin Schafer / WWF

Public support

What’s more, these companies, states and cities are supported by the American people: 70% believe climate change is happening and 53% believe that it’s caused by humans – despite what they’re told by some of their politicians. Two thirds of Americans want their president and congress to do more to tackle it, and 69% of them (including nearly half of Trump voters) believe that staying in the Paris Agreement is part of that.

Climate change is happening and its effects can be seen all over the world. The science is clear about its cause and we know what action we need to tackle it. 197 parties signed up to Paris, committing to that action; 196 will stay signed up – most, no doubt, very happy to work with US citizens, companies, states and cities to deliver on it.

What do you think? Leave us your comments below.

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