President Trump’s much-anticipated decision to exit the Paris Agreement on climate change strikes another blow against the current multilateral international order by his administration and reinforces its America First stance toward the world.
Trump declared his administration’s intent to stop honoring and cease all implementation of the nonbinding parts of the Paris Agreement. This includes the goals and actions to reduce emissions outlined in the U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) as well as any further contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which provides money to poor countries to lower emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
With this action, which goes against the positions of almost all other countries in the world, President Trump officially, and entirely voluntarily, ceded hard-won U.S. international leadership. Already, China and the EU are showing signs they are willing to fill the leadership vacuum.
Even if slightly hyperbolic, Fareed Zakaria on CNN declared it as “(t)he day that the United States resigned as the leader of the free world. It is nothing short of that.” Other U.S. foreign policy analysts have intoned the same. What does this move mean for the U.S. and its foreign relations?
Fulfilling a campaign promise
With the announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, President Trump elected to go with ideology over pressing environmental concerns, recommendations by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and business leaders, and public opinion. These and other groups believe that it would have been more prudent to remain within the Paris Agreement and keep a prominent seat at the table as future decisions are made.