The US is out of the Paris climate change agreement; if Biden wins, that could change
ARLINGTON, Va. – The United States formally dropped out of the Paris Agreement on climate change Wednesday, finally fulfilling a vow President Donald Trump made more than three years ago.
That could all change, however, if former Vice President Joe Biden squeezes out a victory over Trump in Tuesday's election. Biden has pledged to rejoin the agreement immediately after being sworn into office. See real-time election results here.
The historic 2015 deal signed by President Barack Obama includes almost 200 nations in a single agreement to combat global warming. Trump, however, has championed fossil fuels in the U.S. and claimed the deal unfairly placed few restrictions on India and China while forcing the U.S. to curb carbon emissions.
“The terrible, one-sided climate accord was a total disaster for our country,” Trump reiterated at an energy conference in Pittsburgh last year.
Bob Perciasepe, president of the Arlington-based nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, called the U.S. withdrawal a "shameful retreat" from obligations leaders have to the planet and to future generations.
"No country can withdraw from the reality of climate change, and no country bears greater responsibility, or possesses greater capacity, to lead the world in confronting this reality head-on," Perciasepe said. "Other nations thankfully remain committed to the Paris Agreement, and we are confident that the United States will in time recommit itself to this vital global cause.”
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May Boeve, executive director of the California-based global environmental advocacy group 350.org, said a protracted lack of U.S. leadership on climate risks sabotaging other areas of global cooperation, such as trade and human rights.
“Whatever the final result of the election, don’t count the United States out," she said. "There are millions of Americans who reject this regression, are committed to climate justice, and are demanding that the U.S. ... uphold the goals of Paris and go beyond."
Carbon dioxide emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and fuel conditions for climate change. By 2050, climate change could wipe out some species, place more homes in floodplains and trigger longer, more intense heat waves, scientists have said.
The Paris accord requires countries to set their own voluntary targets for reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The only binding requirement is that nations have to accurately report on their efforts.
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“We have a really good environmental record," U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a recent interview with the USA TODAY Network. Wheeler, before taking over the agency, had been an EPA employee and also a lobbyist for energy, oil and uranium processing companies.
"I would say that the Obama administration only focused on climate change and not on the nuts and bolts of what the EPA is supposed to be doing," Wheeler said. "And we've been doing all of it at the same time.”
The actual withdrawal took so long because of rules built into the agreement aimed at slowing efforts to drop out. Nations could not provide formal notice of withdrawal until three years after ratification, which took place in the fall 2016. A 12-month notice period was then required.
Rejoining would be much simpler: a letter of intent followed by a 30-day waiting period.
Contributing: Beth Burger