Fraser Forum

Trump eyes withdrawal from Paris climate agreement

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Rumour has it, President Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, killing another legacy of the Obama administration.

It’s still possible that this is a negotiating ploy, and the president is waiting for the Europeans to call him and “make a deal” that would make the U.S. commitment aspirational, or lower its stringency, to convince the U.S. to stay in the agreement. But if that was likely, it would most likely have happened last week at the G-7 conference—and it didn’t.

We don’t know what President Trump may or may not believe in any given thing on any given day, but he does believe in building his presidential brand, and that brand is predicated on sparking an industrial and manufacturing renaissance in the U.S.

And that particular quest depends on consuming a large quantity of fossil fuels, and doing so at low cost. Adhering to the Paris Agreement would make that more difficult for him, as it would be invoked in court challenges, not only to various construction and operational activities in that renaissance he wants to spark, but in the face of the deregulatory platform that was a key element of his campaign.

Staying in the agreement but failing to live up to it (not that any Paris signatory, including Canada, is likely to achieve the Paris targets) would also give his opponents a permanent message of “Trump is ignoring U.S. promises!”

But it’s hard to see what the president has to lose by withdrawing. The people who support the Paris Agreement are for the most part not his constituents, and would never be, Paris or not. The governments that he would upset by withdrawing were not likely to work with him on his agenda items (immigration, trade, etc.) voluntarily under any circumstance, so he loses little there.

Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, tend to be nationalists, often disdainful of globalization and globalist efforts such as the Paris Agreement, and will only consider his withdrawal as “keeping another promise.” They are generally anti-bureaucracy as well, viewing regulators as part of what killed the dreams of middle-class blue-collar workers in the U.S.

So, little to lose, and something to gain, my guess is that President Trump will view a Paris withdrawal as a “good deal.” Which is not a “good deal” for Canada, which seems hell bent on harming its own economy with climate policies that won’t be mirrored down south any time soon.


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