Trump’s Paris Withdrawal Leaves U.S. Isolated on World Stage

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By Bryce Baschuk

Heads of state from 19 of the world’s largest economies isolated U.S. President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and said their disapproval would not abate in the years to come.

During the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, world leaders said the Paris Agreement was “irreversible” and reaffirmed their “strong commitment” to implement the accord, according to the text of their communique.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on the final day of the July 7–8 summit that their statement did not “gloss over”the clear differences that the G-19 members had with the Trump administration over the climate accord.

The joint statement included a dissenting view noting that the U.S. will withdraw from the agreement and “immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution.”

The communique is “absolutely clear that this is not a common position,” Merkel said during the summit’s closing press conference.

Cut That ‘Keeps Bleeding’

Trump said last month that the Paris Agreement would hurt U.S. businesses and make it more difficult to compete with international rivals such as China and India. His decision has since been panned both by the country’s allies and foes.

French President Emmanuel Macron said July 8 that he would host a climate conference in Paris this December so signatories could celebrate the two-year anniversary of the climate accord.

Macron also tweeted that France and China were “united” in defending the Paris Agreement and included the hashtag #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain.

“It is hard not to interpret that as an exclusive attempt to further isolate the Trump administration,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Trump’s decision was a “self-inflicted wound on America’s influence and international prestige,” Kirkegaard told Bloomberg BNA in a July 10 phone interview. “It is a cut that will continue to keep bleeding.”

‘Good Thing’

The ability of institutions such as the G-20 to confront Trump’s position could show both the relevance of the organization and the importance of international agreements like the Paris accord.

“In a way, it’s positive in that the other G-19 countries were prepared to rally around the significance of the Paris Agreement, A lot of governments are realizing they need to support these key institutions and agreements for the duration of the Trump presidency,” said Joshua Meltzer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“This is a good thing that the organizations the U.S. spearheaded are strong enough to address the fact that the U.S. itself is going rogue,” Kirkegaard said. “If you care about international cooperation, you should be happy about that.”

Others disagreed and argued that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement was actually a keen policy decision that shows world leaders that Trump is willing to buck global norms to advance U.S. goals.

“It could very well help future negotiations if other governments know that the U.S. is willing and able to resist diplomatic pressure in order to protect American interests,” Heritage Foundation policy analysts Nicolas Loris and Katie Tubb said in a recent blog post.

Campaign Issue

In her press conference, Merkel said she was not optimistic that Trump would back down from his position, but noted that politics in the U.S. could change.

The timeline of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord ensures that the U.S. cannot technically exit the accord and renege on its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions until the November 2020 election cycle.

“Everyone who understood the timeline understood that you are 99.9 percent sure you will get a Democratic challenger to Trump that will keep the U.S. involved in this,” Kirkegaard said.

“But it doesn’t really mean anything other than some legal issues,” he said. “What matters for U.S. climate policy is all the regulatory changes that the Trump administration may implement between now and 2020.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

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