Blog Post

President Trump: what next for global climate action?

The new Trump presidency might now signal a U-turn in the United States’ international climate policies.

By: and Date: November 9, 2016 Topic: Energy & Climate

Under President Barack Obama, the United States assumed a leading role in the global fight against climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement would probably not have materialised without Obama. He played a central role in committing the United States, for the first time, to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and also in engaging emerging countries in the process.

The road to Paris started to look really possible when, in November 2014, the United States engaged in a landmark deal with China that put the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters in lockstep to cut emissions.

In September 2016, when the United States and China ratified the Paris Agreement, the European Union was prompted to follow, enabling the agreement to enter into force at an unprecedented speed.

The new Trump presidency might now signal a U-turn in the United States’ international climate policies. During the electoral campaign, Donald Trump reinforced his climate-sceptic profile, defining climate change as a ‘‘hoax of the Chinese government’’, and promising to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and to immediately stop ‘‘all payments of the United States’ tax dollars to United Nations’ global warming programmes’.

However, with the Paris Agreement having entered into force, President Trump will not be able, in legal terms, to withdraw from the deal during his first term. In fact, he would be able to trigger Article 28 (a provision allowing countries to withdraw from the Agreement, in Brexit terms the Article 50 of the Paris Agreement) only three years after the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, and it would then be another year before it took effect. By that time, November 2020, Trump’s first term would be over.

President Trump will not be able, in legal terms, to withdraw from the deal during his first term.

However, President Trump will have two other options to change the United States’ international climate trajectory.

The first would be to directly pull out of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change –the umbrella agreement for the Paris Agreement – and this would also be considered legally as a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement itself. This radical option, paradoxically, would be easier to achieve than withdrawal from the Paris Agreement alone. In fact, it might be attainable within the first year of the presidency.

The second option would be to simply ignore the international climate commitments assumed by President Obama, and accordingly reshape the United States’ energy and climate policy. This option would be as damaging for global climate action as US withdrawal from the UNFCCC. Without a strong commitment from the historically biggest greenhouse gas emitter, emerging countries like China and India might raise questions over own climate efforts.

In short, if President Trump is to maintain his stated positions on climate change from the electoral campaign, overall global action against climate change will be structurally weakened. Even if he takes no drastic action, a lack of global climate leadership is in any case likely.

A lack of global climate leadership is in any case likely

In this context, Europe will emerge as the leading force underpinning the developed world’s global climate effort. Europe should swiftly understand this new responsibility, and strengthen its engagement with China and other countries to keep up momentum and decisively proceed along the road defined in Paris.


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.

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

A Safety Net for the Green Economy

How to protect workers hurt by the fight against climate change.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 20, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Blog Post

The European Union’s carbon border mechanism and the WTO

To avoid any backlash, the European Union should work with other World Trade Organisation members to define basic principles of carbon border adjustment mechanisms.

By: André Sapir Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: July 19, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

Making sure green household investment pays off

Policies are needed to support green fuel switching by households; support should be phased out as the carbon price rises.

By: Ben McWilliams and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 19, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

A fitting plan for the European Green Deal?

How does the world's first roadmap for meeting climate goals stack up?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 15, 2021
Read article Download PDF
 

External Publication

Building the Road to Greener Pastures

How the G20 can support the recovery with sustainable local infrastructure investment.

By: Mia Hoffmann, Ben McWilliams and Niclas Poitiers Topic: Global Economics & Governance, Testimonies Date: July 15, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

‘Fit-for-55’ package: Squaring the circle

The European Union finds itself at the centre of a three-dimensional puzzle. Burdens need to be shared between 450 million citizens, 25 million businesses and EU countries in a way that is acceptable to enough of them.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 15, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Blog Post

Fit for 55 marks Europe’s climate moment of truth

With Fit for 55, Europe is the global first mover in turning a long-term net-zero goal into real-world policies, marking the entry of climate policy into the daily life of all citizens and businesses.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 14, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

The EU green bond standard: sensible implementation could define a new asset class

The proposed EU green bond standard will be less prone to ‘greenwashing’, and the widest possible set of issuers and jurisdictions should be encouraged to use the standard.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 13, 2021
Read about event
 

Upcoming Event

Sep
3
10:15

Sustainable finance

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 3 - In this session on the final day of the Meetings, our panelists will discuss the future of finance and its sustainability.

Speakers: John Berrigan, Maria Demertzis, Alberto De Paoli and Pierre Heilbronn Topic: Energy & Climate, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Palais des Académies, Rue Ducale 1, Brussels
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

A breakdown of EU countries’ post-pandemic green spending plans

An analysis of European Union countries’ recovery plans shows widely differing green spending priorities.

By: Klaas Lenaerts and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 8, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author
 

Policy Contribution

The risks from climate change to sovereign debt in Europe

European Union institutions and national fiscal authorities should incorporate climate risk in debt sustainability analysis.

By: Stavros Zenios Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 8, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Who should pay the climate bill?

If we need to get into a war-type mentality to fight climate change, we also need a war-type development plan, so that everyone manages the transition irrespective of their capacity.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 7, 2021
Load more posts