Return to News
June 2, 2017

Quitting the Paris Climate Agreement is bad for the world, worse for the USA

(June 2, 2017, New York, USA) – Vital Strategies has denounced President Trump’s decision to renege on the USA’s obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vital Strategies commented:

“A stable and life-sustaining local and global environment is critical to every country’s development and economic growth. This is why there is broad support for the Paris Agreement across American business organizations, health advocates and scientists, with the disastrous exception of the Trump administration and its fellow travellers. Rather than embracing progress, the Administration is foreclosing on the long term interests of Americans. This decision is a renunciation of science and logic, wilfully ignores basic economics, and repudiates diplomacy.  The White House has demonstrated disinterest in the greatest threats to the health and lives of American citizens, and evinces a lack of faith in America’s historic ability to deliver progress through innovative design and scientific advancement. It’s a decision that pushes Americans back to a darker, less clean, and less healthy past instead of propelling us toward a healthier, more prosperous future.”

The Paris Agreement set global goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperatures from rising beyond a calamitous 2 degrees Celsius. Contrary to Trump’s rationale, it enables countries to map their own road to greater energy efficiency. The abandonment of the Paris Agreement leaves the United States without a national policy, emboldens industry to reverse course on emissions reductions, and abdicates America’s role in innovation and support for sustainable development globally.

Castro continued: “The United States is harming its relationships with allies old and new, who expected us to work with them on the major global threat of our time. The decision is a national disgrace that will deliver national and international harm.

“We applaud the mayors and governors of major US cities and states who have stated their intention to implement policies that are in line with the Paris Agreement, irrespective of Trump’s national policy. These leaders understand that addressing the crisis of climate change does not only prevent future calamity. It has measurable, immediate local benefits to the health of the public.”

Domestically, transitioning from coal to lower-carbon energy will save thousands of lives annually from cardiovascular and lung disease caused by air pollution. Urban land use and transportation improvements that reduce vehicle use and emissions will also result in more health-promoting physical activity. Assistance to expand access to clean energy in low income countries will help reduce air pollution from solid fuels for household cooking and heating, improving the health of mothers and children and protecting forests.

Though cities and states can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions reductions through green energy consumption, building efficiency, and improved public transportation and land use policies, progress will be slowed without a comprehensive national plan.  And the lack of US leadership risks weakening commitments in developing countries, with emissions rising as the global population grows, energy demand increases, and the natural environment is exploited to meet fuel demands.

Arguments for withdrawal fail basic fact-checks

There is no evidence to support Trump’s arguments for withdrawal, when the private sector and other countries are working to address carbon emissions and climate change:

  • The Paris Agreement sets emissions reduction goals not, as Trump falsely said, economic production reductions. US industries have already demonstrated that production can be maintained while emissions are reduced.
  • Trump is wrong when he says that no country is making progress. China, currently the greatest emitter of CO2, is well ahead of its Paris Agreement goals in converting to cleaner fuels and reducing emissions.
  • The Agreement is not a bad deal for the US. US investments in funding emissions mitigation in developing countries are small relative to the direct benefits the USA could gain from developing new technologies and entering new markets – creating manufacturing, technical, and finance jobs; climate benefits and reduced mitigation costs; and improved economic output from growing the US’s share of cleaner energy supply.
  • The burden on the US is not excessive. The USA is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter and the greatest historical polluter, but it is the European Union – the third largest collective emitter – that has contributed the majority of funds to the Green Climate fund.
  • Trump’s administration is out of step with the private sector – the economic engine of the USA – which is already responding through energy efficiency, energy source substitution, efficient siting of employees, improved construction and energy efficiency standards. Even the new Kentucky Coal Museum has an on-site solar power plant to generate much of its energy needs, because it makes economic sense.
  • This decision does not put “America First”. It puts the health of ordinary Americans behind flawed ideology and the US squarely in last place among nations. Only the authoritarian failed state of Syria, and Nicaragua, a country with comparatively small carbon emissions, are not parties to the Agreement.
  • The USA’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will harm the world. Analysis suggests that the withdrawal of the US could add up to 3bn tonnes of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, raising the global temperature by 0.1-0.3C (0.2-0.5F) by the end of the century.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies environment and public healthl expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org

Back to top