Blog Post

Trump and the Paris Agreement: better out than in

It would be better for international climate governance if Trump stays out of the Paris Agreement, rather than stays in with a new, weakened deal.

By: Date: September 18, 2017 Topic: Energy & Climate

The United States administration appears to be rethinking its 1 June 2017 decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, has signalled a shift in tone from the Trump administration, declaring that the US could remain in the Paris climate accord under the right conditions.

Tillerson’s statement echoes President Trump’s words when he announced the US withdrawal in a speech at the White House Rose Garden. He said during the speech that the US was ready to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the U.S., its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

World leaders gather in New York this week for the General Assembly of the United Nations, during which the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be discussed. The US position will no doubt be a major talking point.

Beyond the inevitable political twists however, other nations face a fundamental question over the US position: is it better for the global climate architecture to have the US outside the Paris Agreement, or inside – but with a weaker commitment?

The architecture of the Paris Agreement has shown great resilience to the US withdrawal. A few hours after Trump’s announcement, the European Union and China forged a new alliance to take a leading role in tackling climate change, and many other countries have reaffirmed their commitments. Even India, an originally reluctant signatory, promptly declared its intention to go even beyond its Paris commitment. The US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement did not have any domino effect, and seems to have contributed to strengthened global momentum on climate action.

A US decision to stay in the Agreement, but with a new, weakened emissions reduction pledge (ie a watered-down US nationally determined contribution, NDC), could represent a blow to the structure of the Paris Agreement.

Article 4.11 of the Agreement states: “A Party may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition in accordance with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement.”

With this article, negotiators wanted to encourage the Parties to make changes to their commitments in the direction of greater ambition, on the basis of the Agreement’s underlying spirit of raising the climate change mitigation effort over time. However, the negotiators did not insert in the text of the Agreement any clause prohibiting the revision of an NDC to make it less ambitious. So, as outlined by legal experts and former climate negotiators, the US would be legally entitled to revise its NDC downward.

This would be a dangerous political precedent and a major political blow to the underlying spirit of the Paris Agreement. From a practical point of view, it would be preferable for the international climate machinery to advance without the sort of handbrake that this US Administration could represent for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, for instance on international climate finance.

To put it simply, it would be better for international climate governance if Trump stays out of the Paris Agreement, rather than stays in with a new, weakened NDC. On this basis, while convening in Bonn for the COP23 in November, the other Parties should not accept a negotiation offer from the US, but should rather seize the reinforced global climate momentum generated by the US withdrawal announcement to speed-up the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Such an approach would be the best option in terms of minimising harm to the climate, as the US will anyhow continue to reduce its emissions as a result of energy market trends (ie coal-to-gas switch, declining competitiveness of coal, declining costs of renewables), which are not affected by the US’s lack of political commitment.

 

 

 


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

How to reform European transport and tackle rising emissions

The transport sector is the Europe's biggest obstacle to meeting its climate-change targets. But there are several ways in which the EU can take the initiative and lead both its citizens and its automotive industry in a cleaner direction. Bruegel fellows Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann discuss their research and policy conclusions in this episode of 'The Sound of Economics'

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 24, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Why this round of U.S. protectionism is different

Although it is not the first time that the world has been caught in the China-U.S. crossfire, this round of U.S. protectionist moves against China is very different, and more worrisome than past ones. They involve a much larger number of products and in that they also target the global competition for U.S. companies and not only the U.S. market. It is in no way just a poker game launched by the U.S. to reduce its bilateral trade deficit with China, but the herald of an era of China-U.S. strategical competition.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Jianwei Xu Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: April 24, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

May
3
12:30

Cleaning up Europe's transport sector: which strategies?

Over the last decade, EU’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased significantly in all sectors with the only exception of transport. This sector is thus becoming a key obstacle to EU decarbonisation and more aggressive policies are needed to decarbonise it. This event will discuss the potential strategies to structurally address this issue, also on the basis of Bruegel’s new policy proposal in the field.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Francesco Starace and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Book/Special report

Developing the EU long term climate strategy

To ensure that EU climate policy is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and takes into account substantial recent shifts in the technical and political framework, the EU needs a new long-term climate strategy that will supersede the 2050 Roadmap that was issued in 2011.

By: Georg Zachmann and Andrei Marcu Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 18, 2018
Read article More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director's Cut: EU risks US tariff pain in standing by the WTO

As global trade war continues to unfold, Bruegel director Guntram Wolff is joined for this Director's Cut of 'The Sound of Economics' podcast by Bernd Lange MEP, chair of the Committee on International Trade (INTA), to discuss Europe's options.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: April 18, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Brief

Addressing Europe’s failure to clean up the transport sector

The European Union has the long-term vision to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 and it adopted in 2014 a binding 40 percent emissions reduction target to be achieved by 2030. Transport is therefore set to become the main obstacle to the achievement of the EU’s decarbonisation goals.

By: Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 9, 2018
Read article More by this author

Opinion

How Should the EU Position Itself in a Global Trade War?

It is high time for the EU to work on more than just wishful thinking in response to the US challenge to global trade. With the first cracks appearing in the multilateral system, it will be difficult for the EU to maintain a middle course between the US and China.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: April 5, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Will U.S. tax reform lure U.S. companies away from China?

What will be the results of the changes to the U.S. tax system in China? Will the new U.S. corporate tax rate cause Chinese firms to shift their operations to the U.S. to enjoy the new tax benefits? Read Alicia García-Herrero's opinion on President Donald Trump’s tax reform.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: March 26, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Which sectors would be most vulnerable to EU-US trade war?

As the US administration imposes new tariffs on steel and aluminium and considers further protectionist measures, we look at bilateral trade flows between the US and the EU28 across different types of products.

By: Francesco Chiacchio Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: March 15, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Still on the road? Assessing Trump’s threat to European cars

Just how exposed is Europe’s automotive sector to a potential escalation in the EU-US trade war?

By: Gustav Fredriksson, Alexander Roth and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: March 13, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs: how should the EU respond?

President Trump and his trade team are set on a path of protectionism and economic nationalism. Trump’s intended measure raises four issues for the EU: the effect on European industry; how to deter Trump’s broader protectionist thrust; how to use the WTO Dispute System in this case; and, how to prepare for the contingency of a post-WTO or truncated-WTO world.

By: Uri Dadush Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: March 9, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Domestic determinants of foreign policy in the United States and the European Union

Foreign policy begins at home, and in Europe and the United States the domestic drivers of foreign policy are shifting in important ways. The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, the decision of British voters to leave the European Union, and popular pressures on governments of all stripes and colors to deal with the […]

Speakers: Rosa Balfour, Maria Demertzis, Steven Erlanger, Daniel S. Hamilton, Rainer Münz and Teija Tiilikainen Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Rue de la Loi 155, 1040 Bruxelles Date: February 19, 2018
Load more posts