Donald Trump is to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, White House sources have claimed.
The US is currently one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, so if President Trump was to pull the country out the landmark pact to reduce such carbon emissions it would be a major blow to a deal that aims to help avert the worst effects of climate change.
Following a number of reports in US media about the move, Mr Trump tweeted that he would be announcing “my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days” followed by his campaign slogan “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The Axios news website said the sources had “direct knowledge of the decision” made by the Republican billionaire, who has previously described global warming as a hoax perpetrated by China – also a large polluter.
As president, Mr Trump can withdraw from Paris on his own authority. The reason it was called an ‘agreement’ was to enable Barack Obama to use the president’s executive power to ratify it without having to seek the permission of the Republican-controlled Congress, which must ratify any international ‘treaties’.
The US delegation had to negotiate for several hours over complicated legal language the day the agreement was signed in December 2015. Part of the issue was that other countries were very concerned about the exact situation the world is now: a post-Obama administration catering to climate deniers in the US Congress that would be able to legally withdraw.
The decision to withdraw from the climate accord was influenced by a letter from 22 Republican US senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling for an exit, Axios reported.
Mr Trump has ignored the advice of a string of senior advisers, including his own daughter Ivanka Trump, Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who all advocated keeping ‘a seat at the table’.
Mr Mattis and others in the Department of Defence have noted that the Pentagon does a substantial amount of work addressing rising sea levels, changing sea routes for battleships due to melting glaciers, and the affects of drought and floods on US national security interests.
During his campaign, Mr Trump had vowed to “cancel” the Paris deal within 100 days of becoming president, as part of an effort to bolster US oil and coal industries. That promise helped rally supporters sharing his scepticism of global efforts to police US carbon emissions. However, he later said he would take his time to understand the issue of the Paris agreement before deciding whether to pull out.
The Trump administration must now decide whether to begin the three-year withdrawal process stipulated by the Paris Agreement. or ditch the underlying United Nations treaty which would speed up the process.
Such a move would be a sign that he plans to further cut environmental regulations and attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enacted by Mr Obama. Mr Trump’s proposed federal budget includes major cuts to the tune of nearly 30 per cent of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however his planned $54bn increase to defence spending may cover some climate-related programmes depending on if discretion is granted to the Pentagon.
He also wants to cut the budget of the US Coast Guard, the maritime security agency, by a significant amount. The agency’s work also encompasses ocean conservation, marine life and endangered species protection, and some research.
The report of the apparent decision comes hours after the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the US to remain within the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.
So far the world’s average temperature has risen by just under one degree because of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.
Germany, France and other leading nations have expressed frustration with Mr Trump’s stance on climate change. Even Pope Francis tried to persuade the US President during his recent visit to the Vatican by presenting him with a papal letter, or encyclical, the Pontiff wrote in 2015 regarding the need to address the multi-faceted issue of climate change.
Supporters of the climate pact are concerned that a US exit could lead other nations to weaken their commitments or also withdraw, softening an accord that scientists have said is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
Canada, the European Union, and China have said they will honour their commitments to the pact even if the United States withdraws. A source told Reuters that India had also indicated it would stick by the deal.
Mr Trump’s attitude toward the agreement prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say that Europeans can no longer rely on the US.
“If this is true, it is a big setback. Then, we must find partners to continue, because this work must not stop,” Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipila told parliament.
Friends of the Earth, an international network of environmental organisations, said in a statement that “this short-sighted and dangerous decision.” They said it “will be met by opposition around the world: from ordinary people, to scientists, and political leaders – making the US a global outcast.”