Trump guts Obama’s Paris legacy

Pres­i­dent ex­its cli­mate ac­cord de­spite push­back from both par­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLFGANG

Pres­i­dent Trump’s Amer­ica-first mantra steam­rolled over the ob­jec­tions of law­mak­ers, top CEOs, the Pen­tagon, the U.N. and even his own daugh­ter, as he an­nounced Thurs­day that he was with­draw­ing the U.S. from the land­mark Paris cli­mate ac­cord to limit green­house gas emis­sions.

Af­ter months of be­hind-the-scenes drama and po­lit­i­cal jock­ey­ing, Mr. Trump took to a sunny White House Rose Gar­den to say the deal former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ne­go­ti­ated was skewed to pun­ish Amer­i­cans while re­ward­ing the coun­try’s eco­nomic com­peti­tors.

He said he’s will­ing to try for a bet­ter deal for the U.S., but said if that doesn’t come about, he’s fine walk­ing away.

“We’re get­ting out, but we will start to ne­go­ti­ate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine,” Mr. Trump said to ap­plause from crit­ics of the Paris deal as­sem­bled on the White House lawn.

“I was elected to rep­re­sent the cit­i­zens of Pitts­burgh, not Paris,” he con­tin­ued. “I promised I would exit or rene­go­ti­ate any deal that doesn’t serve Amer­ica’s in­ter­ests.”

Top Democrats, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, for­eign lead­ers and Mr. Obama him­self de­nounced the move, with the former pres­i­dent is­su­ing a state­ment while Mr. Trump was still speak­ing, ac­cus­ing his suc­ces­sor of join­ing “a small hand­ful of na­tions that re­ject the fu­ture.”

Mr. Trump, though, de­liv­ered a de­tailed evis­cer­a­tion of the deal Mr. Obama signed, say­ing it crushes Amer­i­can busi­nesses, un­nec­es­sar­ily fun­nels bil­lions of dol­lars to other na­tions and al­lows the world’s top pol­luter, China, to do lit­tle to curb its own emis­sions for the next 13 years.

Mr. Obama had com­mit­ted the U.S. to cut its green­house gas emis­sions by

at least 26 per­cent by 2025, while China needs only to cap its pol­lu­tion by 2030.

The pact also calls on Amer­ica to com­mit bil­lions of dol­lars to the U.N.’s Green Cli­mate Fund to pay de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to de­velop cleaner en­ergy.

Those terms, Mr. Trump said, are un­ac­cept­able.

“The bot­tom line is that the Paris ac­cord is very unfair at the high­est level to the United States,” he said.

The move rep­re­sents a fa­tal blow to Mr. Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal legacy, which po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say is now “in tat­ters” fol­low­ing Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sion.

He had ne­go­ti­ated the deal hop­ing to lock the coun­try into a low-emis­sions fu­ture, and ex­pect­ing a Demo­cratic suc­ces­sor to see it through. In­stead, Mr. Trump’s sur­prise vic­tory up­ended his plans.

The former pres­i­dent, how­ever, said he be­lieves the world is on track even with­out the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Sim­ply put, the pri­vate sec­tor al­ready chose a low-car­bon fu­ture. And for the na­tions that com­mit­ted them­selves to that fu­ture, the Paris agree­ment opened the flood­gates for busi­nesses, sci­en­tists, and engi­neers to un­leash high-tech, low-car­bon in­vest­ment and in­no­va­tion on an un­prece­dented scale,” Mr. Obama said.

The Paris Agree­ment was the lat­est out­growth of the U.N. Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change. Of nearly 200 na­tions that are part of the con­ven­tion, 147 have rat­i­fied the Paris deal.

Mr. Obama signed the rat­i­fi­ca­tion him­self rather than fac­ing a near-cer­tain de­feat had he sub­mit­ted the deal to the Se­nate to be rat­i­fied as a treaty. Some an­a­lysts had urged Mr. Trump to sub­mit the deal and let it be erased by Congress.

But the pres­i­dent said it was his duty to pro­tect Amer­i­can work­ers.

Mr. Trump was joined at the White House by EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt, top ad­viser Stephen K. Ban­non and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who had pub­licly fa­vored pulling out of Paris. Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son, En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry, daugh­ter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, all of whom pushed the pres­i­dent to re­main in the ac­cord, did not at­tend the ad­dress.

While the is­sue has di­vided Repub­li­cans both in the White House and on Capi­tol Hill, GOP lead­er­ship praised the move as proof that this ad­min­is­tra­tion is in­tent on putting U.S. in­ter­ests first.

“It would have driven up the cost of en­ergy, hit­ting mid­dle­class and low-in­come Amer­i­cans the hard­est … I commend Pres­i­dent Trump for ful­fill­ing his com­mit­ment to the Amer­i­can peo­ple and with­draw­ing from this bad deal,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said in a state­ment.

The re­ac­tion from crit­ics, both at home and abroad, was swift and harsh. Lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal groups quickly sched­uled protests out­side the White House, while Demo­cratic law­mak­ers said the U.S. was em­bar­rass­ing it­self on the world stage.

“Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw the United States from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment is an ab­di­ca­tion of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship and an in­ter­na­tional dis­grace,” Sen. Bernard San­ders of Ver­mont said in a state­ment.

Some en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, while deeply dis­ap­pointed by the with­drawal, took a glasshalf-full view of the sit­u­a­tion, urg­ing Mr. Trump to make good on his prom­ise to sin­cerely try to rene­go­ti­ate the agree­ment.

“Other coun­tries are very un­likely to be in­ter­ested in rene­go­ti­at­ing the Paris agree­ment or in ne­go­ti­at­ing an al­ter­na­tive agree­ment. But the United States still re­tains the right to ad­just the terms of its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Paris Agree­ment by re­vis­ing its tar­get,” said Bob Per­ci­asepe, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Cli­mate and En­ergy So­lu­tions and a top EPA of­fi­cial dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. “We en­cour­age the pres­i­dent to keep that op­tion on the ta­ble as he seeks a ‘fairer’ deal.”

A strict read­ing of the text of the agree­ment sug­gests that coun­tries can­not sim­ply re­vise their emis­sions tar­gets down­ward and can only in­sti­tute more am­bi­tious goals. Mr. Trump’s rene­go­ti­a­tion, then, would have to fo­cus on chang­ing the core lan­guage of the deal it­self to al­low the U.S. to pur­sue a lower thresh­old.

But ma­jor Euro­pean coun­tries quickly re­jected that idea.

The lead­ers of France, Italy, and Ger­many re­leased a joint state­ment say­ing the deal can­not be amended, ef­fec­tively telling Mr. Trump to stick by his pre­de­ces­sor’s 26 per­cent com­mit­ment or for­ever be ban­ished from the pact.

“We firmly be­lieve that the Paris Agree­ment can­not be rene­go­ti­ated,” the three heads of state said in a joint state­ment, ex­press­ing “re­gret” with the course Mr. Trump chose.

Even the mayor of Pitts­burgh, whose city was men­tioned twice by Mr. Trump as an ex­am­ple of the blue-col­lar Amer­i­can town he was elected to fight for, came out against the pres­i­dent.

“As the mayor of Pitts­burgh, I can as­sure you that we will fol­low the guide­lines of the Paris agree­ment for our peo­ple, our econ­omy & fu­ture,” Demo­crat Bill Pe­duto tweeted just af­ter the pres­i­dent’s re­marks.

But for all the crit­i­cism, Mr. Trump brought data to the Rose Gar­den Thurs­day to back up his de­ci­sion. Known for speak­ing off the cuff and of­ten ac­cused of be­ing loose with facts, the pres­i­dent this time used raw num­bers to jus­tify the move.

“Com­pli­ance with the terms of the Paris ac­cord and the oner­ous en­ergy re­stric­tions it has placed on the United States could cost Amer­ica as much as 2.7 mil­lion lost jobs by 2025,” Mr. Trump said, cit­ing num­bers from a re­cent Na­tional Eco­nomic Re­search As­so­ciates study. “The cost to the econ­omy at this time would be close to $3 tril­lion in lost GDP and 6.5 mil­lion in­dus­trial jobs, while house­holds would have $7,000 less in­come, and, in many cases, much worse than that.”

The Paris deal was, along with the Iran nu­clear agree­ment, the most no­table in­ter­na­tional ac­cord reached un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr. Obama’s swift, harsh re­sponse seems to be proof that he rec­og­nizes the con­se­quences of Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sion. An­a­lysts say that with many of his en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions al­ready on the scrap heap, Mr. Obama has lit­tle left to cling to.

“Pres­i­dent Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal record is in tat­ters, in ef­fect,” said Bran­don Rot­ting­haus, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Hous­ton who spe­cial­izes in pres­i­den­tial lead­er­ship. “Obama gets credit for mak­ing a stand on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, but the prac­ti­cal ef­fect is that the legacy is a pa­per one at this point as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion whit­tles away at the poli­cies.”


GO­ING HIS OWN WAY: Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced from the White House Rose Gar­den Thurs­day he would not honor U.S. com­mit­ments to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, say­ing he wants a “deal that’s fair” to Amer­i­can in­ter­ests.


De­spite Pres­i­dent Trump’s pledge to aban­don U.S. com­mit­ments to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment to re­duce car­bon emis­sions, Pitts­burgh Demo­cratic Mayor Bill Pe­duto said his city will still abide by the ac­cord.

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