Donald Trump has been a pretty strong advocate for repealing and undoing rules & regulations aiming to cut climate change, however recently the New York Times and Axios have reported that Trump is planning to pull out from the Paris agreement (which does reflect on his campaign statements).

My question is why, or what political capital or such would he gain by withdrawing from it. Considering it (not including obvious pollution effects):

  • Does not create more jobs[1]
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is for staying in the Paris accord[2], along with other big businesses[3] so I don't see how private interests could be a major influence.
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    Does the point Trump made that he is planning on renegotiating a better agreement on behalf of the US, implying that perhaps he will rejoin the agreement, an overlooked factor in all these sort of discussions?
    – sMaN
    Jun 2, 2017 at 0:35
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    @sMaN 'Leaders of Germany, France and Italy dismissed the idea of renegotiation. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” they said in a joint statement.'npr.org/2017/06/01/531090243/…
    – Colin
    Jun 2, 2017 at 2:13
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    The "America first" slogan would kind of imply that you do not, ever do something for somebody else. So why saving the climate? The renegotiation is probably just his pretended argument. Jun 3, 2017 at 5:57
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    not an answer, but Scott Adams' ramblings on Trump are always interesting to read (since they're invariable diametrically opposed to the mainstream media arguments). Jun 3, 2017 at 20:26
  • There must be similarities with George W. Bush withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001
    – icc97
    Jun 5, 2017 at 15:55

7 Answers 7



In the US denial of climate science has been turned into part of the 'culture wars'. As such it is part of identity of many on the political right to decry global warming as a left-wing invention made up for political ends.

Any effect on reality, jobs or international relations is secondary.

And it seems that unlike many things, like repealing the ACA, Trump can actually do this; he can withdraw from Paris, keeping his voters happy and without any immediate negative effects; it's totemic more than anything.


Since people seem (wrongly) to think that there is any more to it than this, I can first present the actual agreement. In which there is no enforcement mechanism or sanctions. You just pick a NDC (nationally determined contributions) and promise to stick to it; if you don't there are no consequences, apart from those to the environment. It follows that any costs associated with the agreement are voluntary, and any argument based on costs is void. No one got hauled over the coals (sic.) for missing Kyoto targets, no one will be strung up for missing Paris targets.

Is global warming now firmly part of the culture wars? Yes, it is - this is independent of any actual reality. Political affiliation is embarrassingly strongly tied to acceptance of the science. So Trump is just following this.

And we British have our own. James Delingpole, Matt Ridley, and Christopher Monkton all have their contributions.

So yes, this is all happening for cultural reasons, and dumping the Paris agreement has no real-world consequences - if it had such consequences it would have had to get through the US senate. I'd also note that this argument would be exactly the same if all the science behind global warming was concocted - that simply doesn't come in to it.

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    Can you cite some sources for your references especially pertaining to the UK? I've never heard anyone in the UK deny climate science as a "culture war" or a "left-wing intervention" May 31, 2017 at 17:38
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    This answer is purely based on opinion. You cite nothing to back up your claims. You also boils this down to purely partisan political reasons whereas there are also economic and practical reasons for it as well (agree or disagree). -1. Jun 1, 2017 at 1:36
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    -1 There's very little climate change denial among influential people in the UK. Indeed, I've never heard of any of the three people you list. Sure, there are British people who don't believe in anthropogenic climate change but the political consensus is overwhelming. Jun 1, 2017 at 8:34
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    @DavidRicherby, UKIP are opposed to the current UK Climate Change Act and would seek to repeal it (if they had a voice in parliament). While they are a joke, and an irrelevance in UK politics now, they are still contesting this election. Although from 2015, this is still relevant; theclimategroup.org/sites/default/files/archive/files/… Jun 1, 2017 at 11:18
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    Culture, and also because it's something Obama did and Trump has a personal vendetta against Obama.
    – aroth
    Jun 5, 2017 at 1:57

These are some of the reasons mentioned by Trump that support the withdrawal from the agreement.

1. It increases energy prices should the US follow through its goals.

The United States hopes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below the 2005 level in 2025, and also try to reduce emissions by 28 percent as per aims set out by the Obama administration. This would require many power plants to close, thus resulting in increases in energy prices.

2. It costs quite a lot to meet the goals of the agreement.

The amount spent to meet the goals of the agreement will cost the signatories a significant amount. While the developed countries have committed to mobilize $100 billion a year, there are unofficial estimates that put that amount much higher. Regardless, it costs quite a bit.

Even though the agreement itself is non-binding, the US will have to spend more should they want to meet the goals set out in the agreement.

3. It's Trump's campaign promise.

He has frequently denied climate change and has promised to withdraw from the agreement if elected. Since the treaty is ratified by executive action, he can easily withdraw from it without needing the support of Congress.

4. Some believe that other countries may not fully comply with it.

Enforcement mechanisms for climate change targets are difficult to be implemented. Also, there are no penalties for failing to meet the respective goals set out by the different countries.

As quoted from this opinion piece in Forbes:

Rather, most developed and emerging economies have systematically resisted international enforcement mechanisms.

[ ... ]

As a result, the 2°C limit in the Paris Agreement on climate change, which started this month, is unenforceable and therefore solely an aspiration if the world can achieve carbon neutrality by 2100. The way things are going, that is unlikely. The Paris Agreement is now among over 500 similarly powerless global and regional environmental agreements.

So, basically, some feel that it's pointless to stay in the treaty since other countries may not abide by it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:44
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    Points one and two are demonstrably false. First, the treaty has no specific targets at all. Second, there is no binding mechanism at all either (source: I read the actual text). It is a non-binding treaty in every meaningful sense of the word, and even Trump himself called it such. A non-binding treaty cannot force policy in the way Trump falsely claims. Also see e.g. this, as well as other debunkings of the deceptive pretext that Trump gave.
    – user11249
    Jun 5, 2017 at 6:25
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    BTW, had your answer started with "these are the reasons Trump gave", then that would have been fine. But that's not what the answer does. It states "These are some of the reasons that support the withdrawal from the agreement", and then you use sources which don't directly relate to Trump's motivation (as far as I can see).
    – user11249
    Jun 5, 2017 at 6:27

Bear in mind that Trump is already seeking to terminate Obama's Clean Power Plan, among other environmental initiatives. This makes it unlikely that the US will meet its commitments under the Paris accord, and those commitments are anyways nonbinding.

Yes, this includes the outstanding pledge of $2bn to the Green Climate Fund. As NPR reports,

...the White House could easily have stayed in the Paris accord even as it opted not to pay into the climate fund

Withdrawing from the Paris accord is thus a change in diplomatic stance, not in practical government policy per se. The effect on near-term economic conditions in the US will be minimal.

What are the benefits to withdrawing, then?

  • It's a splashy move which Trump can sell to his blue-collar supporters as proof that he is "on their side". It sells as a policy to protect coal jobs and energy consumers. Furthermore, as noted above by Andrew Dodds, a significant fraction of Trump's supporters already oppose any political action against climate change for various reasons. They will embrace his action on Paris. Trump promised withdrawal during the campaign, and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is known to favor conspicuously fulfilling campaign promises as a way to proverbially "throw red meat to the base". Bannon has been one of the key proponents of withdrawing.

  • Curries favor with certain business interests, such as coal producers. Such companies may support him down the line (campaign $$, etc.).

  • Curries favor with some Republicans in Congress.

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    What you miss is that despite the commitments themselves being non-binding that it provides ammunition to green groups through the courts to pressure the US to comply with the requirements including contributing to a massive UN fund whose sole purpose is to enrich some very corrupt people. Jun 1, 2017 at 3:45
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    "whose sole purpose is to enrich some very corrupt people" you discredit your comment with this claim.
    – Colin
    Jun 1, 2017 at 14:17
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    Since the Paris Accord was at best an executive agreement, failing to reach the level of a ratified treaty, please explain how the US is committed to anything. Jun 1, 2017 at 15:42
  • you are talking about claims being credible or not and putting down people's comments without providing anything to back up your claims or links. Just saying.... if you are going to be that OCD about "credibility" you should first make sure your T's are crossed.
    – ggiaquin16
    Jun 1, 2017 at 18:27
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    @ggiaquin if there are any claims you would like to dispute, I'd be happy to look up citations. I was challenging the above comment to provide evidence since it does not comport well with my understanding and is at least partially false.
    – Colin
    Jun 1, 2017 at 20:29

Remember that the Paris Accords was a non-binding agreement with the US agreeing to do a lot, with other countries doing little, if nothing. That was the chief criticism of it

Here’s how the game works: The negotiating framework established at a 2014 conference in Lima, Peru, requires each country to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, called an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDC). Each submission is at the discretion of the individual country; there is no objective standard it must meet or emissions reduction it must achieve.

Beyond that, it’s nearly impossible even to evaluate or compare them. Developing countries actually blocked a requirement that the plans use a common format and metrics, so an INDC need not even mention emissions levels. Or a country can propose to reduce emissions off a self-defined “business-as-usual” trajectory, essentially deciding how much it wants to emit and then declaring it an “improvement” from the alternative. To prevent such submissions from being challenged, a group of developing countries led by China and India has rejected “any obligatory review mechanism for increasing individual efforts of developing countries.” And lest pressure nevertheless build on the intransigent, no developing country except Mexico submitted an INDC by the initial deadline of March 31 — and most either submitted no plan or submitted one only as the final September 30 cut-off approached.

After all this, the final submissions are not enforceable, and carry no consequences beyond “shame” for noncompliance — a fact bizarrely taken for granted by all involved.

Obama, knowing full well that the Senate would never ratify it as a treaty, never presented it as such. It was an easy way to get a political victory, at the cost of having actual, binding legislation. He assumed that Executive action alone (i.e. The EPA Clean Power Plan) would be able to get him there, and political pressure would keep it in place.

The simple fact is that this is equally a cheap and easy political victory for Trump. Most Republicans dislike the accords and Trump can take the focus off his other political woes. Like Kyoto before it, Paris was more of an agreement to agree on something so photos could be taken and people made to look good. The root problem is that, in order to reach the goals talked about, you have to do one important thing: make energy expensive, or ban certain forms outright. That is not a politically popular position.

  • Like a number of other answers, this does not actually answer the OP's question "what political capital or such would he gain by withdrawing from [Paris]". this is quite a separate question from "what would he gain by not vigorously pursuing anti-climate change policies?"
    – Colin
    Jun 1, 2017 at 21:52
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    @ColinZwanziger I edited in a more direct answer to that question
    – Machavity
    Jun 1, 2017 at 23:01

There are good answers but I would also add that he brands himself as a nationalist and deal maker. He think that international "deals" were badly made and is closing/changing the ones that he can (TPP, NAFTA, ...). I assume that he would sign something similar if he was involved in the negotiation.

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    I don't believe Trump would sign something similar to the Paris accords or any climate deal because he's outspoken against climate change, not to mention, generally pro coal and generally not pro environment and aligned with the far right on those issues. Him singing "something similar" would be pretty close to a 180. Not that he couldn't do that (he did a 180 on Syria - briefly), but I think it's very unlikely, so I pretty strongly disagree with your last sentence. The rest of your answer I agree with.
    – userLTK
    Jun 2, 2017 at 10:24

Trump's motivation for the withdrawal is the same as for Obamacare and numerous other things he has done, is doing, or expressed intent to do within his presidential tenure, and it has nothing to do with jobs, the U.S. economy, U.S. national security, or anything else of consequence to Americans. Trump's motivation is purely spite directed against Obama. He is ego-driven and his ego took a bruising when Obama roasted him at that press corps dinner a few years ago. He has since been on a personal mission to "get even" and undo every one of Obama's achievements as president.

Consider that his crusade against Obamacare could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans as they may lose access to affordable health care while the budget to which American health care is tied may redistribute more wealth to the wealthiest, at the expense of those who can least afford it. Likewise, his "pro-coal" energy policy may do more harm to more Americans than it provides jobs, even without considering the broader global implications.

Trump's catchy "Make America great again" slogan and "America first" is just marketing - not a promise or a goal, but something he can pitch to build the required support for his true purpose. Any of his other initiatives tangential to his anti-Obama crusade - the Mexican wall and travel ban, for example, is just pandering to his base to hold on to the necessary support to facilitate his real objective.

He may initially have sought the presidency for other reasons - a competitive individual in search of his next ego boost. He may initially have had no real idea what to do with the job if he gets it, other than self or family enrichment, but Obama furnished him with an agenda.

Trump will use jobs, the economy, or security as justification, but when you look more closely, it's just rationalization - cherry-picking reports and news articles which appear to favor his actions whether or not they are true, accurate, or even relevant. None of it is motivating him, only providing him with arguments he can trot out as he systematically undoes as much of what Obama accomplished as he can. The true motivation is, in a word, vendetta.


The best answer to this question is Trump does not operate for political capital but rather what he sees is best for the US. When he said he believed other countries were laughing at America over the Paris accord he is telling the truth (believed or actual.) Trump is doing what he said he will do, trying to analyse his actions on the basis of politcal capital or campaign funds is trying to apply a bad fitting model to Trump. He is self funded, he is doing what he believes is right for the US and he will continue to do so. He is also smart enough at business to know that keeping the commitment was extremely expensive when the US needs to focus on debt reduction.

Remember that big business is both enjoying trump and worried about Trump, he is not controlled by them or the media (the politically correct machine.) Elon Musk runs a business that depends on Govt money related to being seen to be green. Many others do what they do with their own political agendas which is to do with seen to do the right thing by their customers (Musk the same of course.) This is not going to stop Trump doing what he believes is best for the US either, Trump already has shown us that he is not going to be run by people who say do what I want or I am out.

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    "he is telling the truth (believed or actual)". Oh man. LOL. I guess that actually does explain a lot...
    – user1530
    Jun 2, 2017 at 4:17
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    This is much too generally about Trump and there's not enough here that specifically addresses the question beyond "campaign promise" and "expensive". You said more about Elon Musk than you did about Trump's reasoning on the climate change accord. "Why is Trump doing this?" "He believes it's right" lacks the detail that people look for in an answer.
    – userLTK
    Jun 2, 2017 at 10:29
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    This answer makes a lot of unnecessary statements, many of which are either half true or entirely untrue. Next time, leave the homerism at home.
    – Ellesedil
    Jun 2, 2017 at 21:01

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