Withdrawal from Paris climate agreement: One year later
Protestors in Washington, D.C., on the day of the announcement last year.

Kelly Bell Photography

Withdrawal from Paris climate agreement: One year later


SUFFOLK COUNTY—One year ago last week, President Donald Trump announced the United States would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Trump stated the climate agreement undermines the U.S. economy, putting the nation at a “permanent disadvantage.” During the presidential campaign, he promised to withdraw from the pact, saying that a withdrawal would benefit businesses and workers. 

In addition, Trump stated the withdrawal would be in accordance with his “America First” policy. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president said during a speech from the Rose Garden of the White House on June 1, 2017. Pittsburgh is known for its connection to coal country, which is dominated by an industry that is at odds with the green, energy-efficient jobs of the future.

Carl Cangelosi, a resident of Sayville, recently wrote in a piece for this publication, entitled “Turning Green to Gold,” about the benefits to students who attend energy-sustainable schools. Cangelosi has since been critical of the president’s decision regarding the Paris agreement. “[Trump] ran on an isolationist platform, and he’s continuing the Republican policy of acting on behalf of the fossil fuel industry by attacking any international climate deal as harmful to U.S. interests and free market capitalism,” he said. 

Cangelosi says the Paris agreement withdrawal is one of the many foreign policies implemented by the Trump administration that erodes our standing as the world’s lone superpower. “In giving up our seat at the head of the table, [Trump] is tilting the balance of power towards Asia and China, in particular,” Cangelosi said. 

When asked if anything positive could come as a result of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Cangelosi said that citizens and local governments appear to be energized. “States like California and cities like New York are taking the lead in confronting global warming and the negative impacts associated with the resulting climate changes through policy,” he added. 

Scott Mandia, assistant chair and professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, said something similar when this publication spoke to him earlier this year, shortly after winter storm Grayson hit the East Coast. Mandia noted, in “What Does Climate Change Mean for the South Shore?” (Jan. 18, 2018), that there are many governors, mayors and business leaders who have pledged that their cities, states and corporations will honor the Paris agreement. 

One month after Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement, France’s environmental minister Nicolas Hulot also announced that France was enacting a five-year plan to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. Hulot also stated that France would no longer use coal to produce energy after 2022. 

Cangelosi doesn’t believe the Paris agreement does enough to combat climate change, but stated that meeting greenhouse gas targets and full-cost accounting are needed to address the issue at hand. “Ultimately, crises and markets do and will continue to drive action,” he added. 

Nicaragua and Syria were the only countries not to be part of the Paris agreement when the president made his announcement last year. Nicaragua, which is fraught with corruption, says it didn’t come aboard in protest because they didn’t feel the agreement does enough, while Syria was, and continues to be, engulfed in a civil war. Both countries, however, joined the agreement several months after Trump’s announcement.

Cangelosi advises Long Island residents who are concerned about the effects of climate change to take advantage of state and local energy-efficiency programs for their homes, such as those offered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He also encourages residents to purchase electric vehicles; lobby local officials to build charging stations and expand MTA mass transit initiatives; and vote with their wallets by purchasing products from sustainable companies. 

When asked why he thinks a certain group of voters is so dismissive of climate change, Cangelosi said that our political system is undermining science. “The fossil fuel lobby, with the help of politicians mainly on the right, has successfully withheld and misinformed the citizenry for decades,” he explained. “Unfortunately, the burden of proof falls on environmentalists and they, along with the Democrats, have failed to frame an effective argument and narrative.”

Cangelosi added that extreme climate events are increasing in frequency, but they are still too few and far between to convince climate change skeptics. “Global warming and climate change require an understanding of the interconnectedness of our Earth’s various cycles and systems, which for some reason, escapes many climate change skeptics.”

The earliest possible effective withdrawal date by the United States cannot be before Nov. 4, 2020, four years after the agreement came into effect in the United States and one day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election. This is in accordance with Chapter 28 of the Paris agreement. The White House has stated the United States would abide by the four-year exit process. Until the withdrawal takes effect, the U.S. may be obligated to maintain its commitments to the Paris agreement, such as reporting its carbon emissions to the United Nations. 

“My hope is that the Trump presidency is the last grasp for a segment of our population that is living in the past,” Cangelosi said. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has hurt, to say the least, our efforts to lead and effectively deal with climate change.” However, he doesn’t think it’s a lost cause. “The European Union and China have committed significant government resources to expand the green economy in order to deal with climate change,” Cangelosi continued. “The private sector in the U.S. and abroad is engaging in more full-cost accounting and long-term planning to ensure long-term sustainability and profitability. Consumers are driving private sector efforts by buying green and demanding that companies report on their environmental footprint. If the U.S. is going to lead the green revolution the way we did during the industrial and technological revolutions, the citizenry must elect officials that will make climate change mitigation a priority by committing public resources to support a greener future.”