Less than a week after Election Day, Donald Trump is already trying to figure out how he can pull the United States out of the historic Paris climate deal as quickly as possible.
Trump considers global warming a hoax, despite an overwhelming consensus from climate scientists who say that climate change is both real and man-made. Throughout his campaign, he promised to cancel the Paris climate agreement, which was signed by more than 180 countries last year and hopes to keep the world below 2° C of warming.
The possibility of a Trump presidency actually helped spur countries to ratify the agreement on an accelerated timeline, and the agreement officially went into effect on November 4. The agreement itself includes a clause for withdrawal that requires countries to wait a three years after the agreement goes into effect to pull out — from that point, it takes a country a full year to officially leave the agreement. That would mean that, technically, the Paris agreement looks to be Trump-proof, at least through his first term.
But a source on his transition team told Reuters that the president-elect might be looking at a more extreme option to cancel the Paris agreement, by canceling the very treaty that made the Paris agreement possible in the first place — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was ratified by the Senate under George H.W. Bush, and the United States was actually the first developed country to ratify it — largely because the U.S. felt it was important to have a seat at the table for climate negotiations on the international stage.
Trump could cancel the UNFCCC with an executive order, which would effectively pull the United States out of the Paris agreement within a year.
That would mean that the United States was no longer obligated to make payments to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, which was created in order for developed countries to help finance developing countries’ climate mitigation and adaptation projects. But pulling out of the UNFCCC would also mean that the United States would, essentially, become an international pariah with regards to climate negotiations — the country would basically have no official voice, or seat at the table, in climate negotiations or treaties.
For a President Trump, that probably isn’t too much of a deterrent — except that effectively voiding a treaty that was passed under a Republican president and withstood three different administrations could send a signal to the international community that under Trump, no treaty or negotiation is guaranteed any kind of good faith within the international negotiating community.
Pulling out of the agreement could also alienate other countries that have expressed hope that the United States will remain in the treaty even under Trump. And major multinational corporations, too, have expressed support for remaining in the agreement — on Friday, Suzanne McCarron, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at Exxon Mobil Corporation, tweeted that the company fully supports remaining in the Paris agreement.
— Suzanne McCarron (@SuzanneMcCarron) November 10, 2016
Beyond officially pulling out of the agreement, a Trump administration threatens to undermine the U.S. role as a leader on climate action simply because he has shown no interest in continuing President Obama’s progress — instead, he has bragged about his intention to cancel Obama’s signature climate regulations like the Clean Power Plan. So far, there’s nothing to show that his promises on the campaign trail won’t be carried out once he is president — he has already named Myron Ebell, a climate denier, to lead his EPA transition team (and there is speculation that Ebell could snag the role of top EPA administrator once Trump takes office).