The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

United States

Guest Blog | Announcement of US Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: What are the Consequences?

This guest blog was written by Soléne Fabrégas, Program Officer and Coordinator of the Climate Working Group at the French Water Partnership. The article comes from FWP's Water & Climate News Digest.


Following the dramatic announcement that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, concerns regarding the future of international negotiations and our capacity to combat climate change are greater than ever.

Although a number of reassuring speeches have indicated that such a decision could both encourage nations to take action and stimulate momentum in civil society, the negative consequences could be numerous:
  • From a symbolic point of view, the withdrawal from the agreement of the world’s second biggest producer of greenhouse gases gives out a very negative signal. Since Donald Trump’s election, the United States had already announced multiple measures that go against sustainable development and a low-carbon economy (e.g. drastic cuts in environmental credits, re-examination of the Clean Power Act, etc.). Now, however, the US President clearly intends to let the world know that he no longer wants to contribute to a joint effort that is nevertheless indispensible to respect international targets.
  • By undoing the efforts made by Barack Obama’s administration to limit the USA’s production of greenhouse gases, the federal state is extinguishing the last hope of remaining under the 2°C threshold. As a reminder, the sum of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) submitted by nations for the Paris agreement currently corresponds to an estimated average temperature rise of between 2.7°C and 3.5°C by 2100. A significant revision and stepping up of nations’ ambitions is therefore crucial, rather than the opposite. In its latest note, the Comité 21 (network for all French actors working for sustainability) states “The impacts of this decision will really be felt after 2020 with a rise in emissions from coal, and a slow-down in the production of renewable energy due to a lack of incentives from the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency)”.
  • The issue of funding is also crucial. Climate funds (adaptation funds, green funds, etc.) are vital tools to help countries initiate processes for energy transition and adapt to climate change. Although the USA’s promise to contribute 3 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund may not seem like much, the withdrawal of this financing would have the effect of weakening a financial tool that already struggles to find resources. In addition to multilateral funding, we can also apprehend a drop in development aid from the United States, bearing in mind that numerous funded development projects also play a part in combating climate change and reducing vulnerabilities.