The United States formally withdrew from the landmark Paris Agreement on Wednesday, something President Donald Trump has talked about for the last two years.
The U.S., the world’s second-largest carbon polluter, is the first country to leave the 189-nation agreement where countries set their own national targets for reducing or controlling pollution of heat-trapping gases, the Associated Press reported.
“It is a formal agreement with informal voluntary actions,” said Jeff Berardelli, a meteorologist and climate contributor to CBS News in New York City. “The rest of the world looks to us for leadership. We risk losing our leadership in climate and energy because renewable energy is the future and China is more aggressive in that area and this opens us a big window for China to take the lead.”
The agreement that was negotiated in 2015, with lots of pushing by the United States and China, went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016. The terms of the deal state that no country can withdraw in the first three years. It doesn’t become official for a year after that, which leads to the day after the election.
Wednesday marks the official end of the mandatory yearlong waiting period; however, if former-Vice President Joe Biden were to win the 2020 election, he would have the next 30 days to choose to reenter the deal, Andrew Light, a former Obama State Department climate negotiator now at the nonprofit World Resources Institute told the AP.
Trump originally announced his intention to withdraw from the landmark agreement in 2017 and formally notified the United Nations last year, NPR reported.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, American carbon emissions dropped by less than 1% a year from 2016 to 2019. And, according to international data reported by the AP, more than 60 countries cut emissions by higher percentages than the U.S. in that time period.
Trump has questioned climate science and has rolled back environmental initiatives that he called too restrictive in cutting future carbon pollution from power plants and cars that prompted him to pull out of the agreement, citing the news outlet.
Scientists and climate negotiators contend that if America pulls back from the Paris Agreement and rolls back stronger carbon-cutting efforts, some nations are less likely to cut back, too, so the withdrawals’ impact will be magnified, the AP reported.
“If Trump wins this will further damage our European relationships," Berardelli said. "If Biden wins he will restore them. His plans are for a carbon-free energy sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions nationwide by 2050, which is more aggressive than China.”