The United States has announced it has begun the process of formally withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
In a statement on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the agreement was an “unfair economic burden” to the U.S. economy, and that he has submitted formal notice to the United Nations, beginning a process that will not become official for a year.
“In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model — backed by a record of real world results — showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy,” he said.
Now that the U.S. has begun the process of withdrawing, what does that mean for Canada and other states who are still a part of the agreement?
Here’s a look at what’s happening:
How will America’s withdrawal impact the international community?
The Paris Climate Agreement is an environmental accord to “combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future,” according to the United Nations.
The main goal of the agreement is to keep the global temperature “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Donald Wright, a political science professor at the University of New Brunswick who studies the politics of climate change, says the U.S. withdrawal from the climate agreement “certainly means bad things for the planet.”
“It’s a disaster,” he said. “We are, as a global community, spending our climate budgets like a bunch of drunken sailors. And the United States is now withdrawing.”
He says Trump’s decision is going to make it “that much harder” for the world to meet the overall goal outlined by the Paris agreement.
According to Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, after China, the United States emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world.
“It’s certainty harder to achieve global climate goals without a country that contributes 15% of the global total,” she wrote in an email to Global News.
Harrison says while the U.S. withdrawal makes it harder to achieve climate goals, she doesn’t think the U.S. withdrawal has hurt the agreement’s legitimacy.
“Given Donald Trump’s global reputation, I don’t think his climate change-denying rants about the Paris Agreement hurt its perceived legitimacy outside the US,” she wrote.
She says that it is “encouraging” that other countries resolve hasn’t faltered, adding that she doesn’t think the U.S. will stay out of the agreement forever.
“The outcome of the U.S.’ 2020 election will be critical in determining whether they will return to the Paris Agreement,” she wrote. “And if Donald Trump is re-elected, I think the rear-guard action on climate by U.S. state governments will only strengthen.”
Similarly, Wright says he hopes the international community can recognize that climate change is an “urgent crisis,” with or without the U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.
“There’s always hope that the next president, whether it’s in 2020 or 2024, will take climate change seriously,” he said.
Will Canada be stuck picking up the slack?
Now that the United States has begun the process of withdrawing, does that mean Canada and other states will need to pick up the slack and alter their policies to compensate?
Wright says that’s not exactly how it works.
He says the goals in the Paris Agreement were nationally determined, meaning Canada and other signatory states each agreed to their own contributions.
“I don’t think Canada is going to have to increase its contribution pursuant to the United States’ decision to withdraw.”
Wright says, however, that the move will likely make the agreement a difficult political sell.
“It’s going to make it more difficult politically for these countries because they’ll say, ‘look, the world’s largest emitter of carbon is not doing anything…
Further, he says Trump’s decision could also have implications on Canadian exports.
“If Canada imposes on its industry expensive regulations or expensive carbon taxes, it will make Canadian products more expensive on the principal market,” he explained. “And of course, the principal market for most Canadian products is the United States.”
He says that could drive up the price of Canadian goods like oil and steel.
Broadly speaking, Harrison says the Trump administration’s “unravelling” of U.S. climate policies will make things “tougher for Canada.”
“For instance, our auto manufacturing industries are closely integrated,” Harrison wrote in an email to Global News. “We — and many US States — are counting on harmonizing with the stricter tailpipe standards adopted by California and approved by the Obama administration.
“The Trump EPA is now seeking to withdraw that approval and is pursuing a very aggressive, even bullying strategy, to try to undermine California.”
She says if that succeeds it makes it harder, though not impossible, for Canada to get the emissions reductions it is counting on from the auto industry.