WASHINGTON (AP/KHON2) — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he was withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement, striking a major blow to worldwide efforts to combat climate change and distancing the country from many allies abroad. He said the U.S. would try to re-enter but only if it can get more favorable terms.
Framing his decision as “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” he said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” His decision ended weeks of speculation, some of it fueled by Trump himself and his Cabinet members.
Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. had agreed under the accord to reduce polluting emissions by about 1.6 billion tons by 2025. But the targets were voluntary, meaning the U.S. and the nearly 200 other nations in the agreement could alter their commitments.
Trump said that he would begin negotiations to re-enter the agreement or establish “an entirely new transaction” to get a better deal for the U.S. But he suggested re-entry was hardly a priority. “If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine,” he said.
By abandoning the world’s chief effort to slow the tide of planetary warming, Trump was fulfilling a top campaign pledge. But he was also breaking from many of America’s staunchest allies, who have expressed alarm about the decision. Several of his top aides have opposed the action, too, as has his daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.
Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as a result of the president’s decision because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year — enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
Trump’s decision marked “a sad day for the global community,” said Miguel Arias Canete, climate action commissioner for the European Union.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, called the decision “irresponsible, hasty, and short-sighted.”
“In Hawaii we understand why it’s important to take care of our land, ocean, and air – our way of life depends on it. Today, it’s more important than ever for states like Hawaii to boldly take the lead on clean energy innovation and good stewardship of our aina,” she said.
“We are appalled and disappointed, but we are not deterred. Entering a formal withdrawal would take nearly four years to complete, which means climate change is on the ballot for every election until we reverse this immoral action,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “The future is with clean energy. The future is with innovation. The future is with climate action. We are not going to allow this short-sighted decision to damage our prospects as a country and as a planet. With private sector momentum behind clean energy, states, cities, and regions are taking action. With international cooperation, we will win this fight, without President Trump’s participation.”
Hawaii lawmakers are already addressing climate change as it pertains to the state and the Pacific.
The Hawaii State Legislature this session passed SB559 SD1 HD2 CD1 which recognizes that climate change poses immediate and long-term threats to the state’s economy, sustainability, security, and way of life, and addresses the impact of climate change.
“Hawaii will continue to fulfill its kuleana on reaching our energy, water, land and other sustainability goals to make island Earth a home for all,” said Gov. David Ige. “The innovation economy is driven by technology, clean energy, and green jobs. We will continue to lead on this transformation and work collaboratively with people around the world.”
Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English (Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe) introduced SB559 which funds the creation of the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission and provides the state with a guide to planning and statewide implementation using the latest scientific analysis and risk assessment to monitor and forecast climate change impacts at the regional, state, and local level.
“The effects of climate change are real, as seen primarily with sea level rise in the Pacific,” said English. “The measure adopted relevant sections of the Paris Agreement as state law, which gives us legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies for Hawaii, despite the federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty.”
“Local progress replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has already saved Hawaii a third of a billion dollars and reduced carbon emissions,” said Rep. Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo), chair of the House Energy & Environmental Protection Committee. “We are currently working together with elected leaders in nearly a dozen other states such as California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and Minnesota to implement climate action plans that replace fossil fuels with renewable energy despite the President’s shortsighted decision.”
The bill was crafted in collaboration with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy (TBA21 Academy), a globally recognized art institution based in Vienna, Austria. TBA21 announced their commitment to focus on the impact of climate change on the oceans at COP21 in Paris and met with scientists, policy makers, and local leaders at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu in September 2016.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says action is being taken on the county level as well.
“My administration supported the establishment of an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency to ensure that we are factoring in the latest science as we design our policies and projects for the next century, and Oahu voters overwhelmingly supported this effort,” Caldwell said. “We are committed to a 100 percent renewable energy future and working to reduce our emissions from city facilities and fleets. My administration is dedicated to continuing on the ‘Paris path’ and I am confident that this void of federal leadership will be filled by local governments, cities and mayors across the nation.”
Nationwide, the U.S. Conference of Mayors said it strongly opposed the decision and said mayors will continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. The group’s vice president, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the action “is shortsighted and will be devastating to Americans in the long run.” In fact, he said, sea level rise caused by unchecked climate change could mean that cities like his “will cease to exist.”
Trump, however, argued the agreement had disadvantaged the U.S. “to the exclusive benefit of other countries,” leaving American businesses and taxpayers to absorb the cost.
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” he said, claiming that other countries have laughed at the U.S. for agreeing to the terms.”
Investors seemed pleased, with stock prices, already up for the day, bumping higher as he spoke. The Dow Jones industrial average rising 135 points for the day
As for the mechanics of withdrawal, international treaties have a four-year cooling off period from the time they go into effect. That means it could take another three-and-half years for the U.S. to formally withdraw, though Trump promised to stop implementation immediately.
Major U.S. allies, business leaders and even the Pope had urged the U.S. to remain in the deal. The decision drew immediately backlash from climate activists and many business leaders.
The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon, following only China. Beijing, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris accord, recently canceling construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and investing billions in massive wind and solar projects.
White House aides have been divided on the question of staying or leaving the accord and had been deliberating on “caveats in the language” as late as Wednesday, one official said. But Trump’s statement was clear and direct.
So was opposition from environmental groups, as expected.
“Generations from now, Americans will look back at Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement as one of the most ignorant and dangerous actions ever taken by any President,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Erica Werner, Vivian Salama, Michael Biesecker and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.