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The US quits the Paris Agreement tomorrow, here’s what’s next

As of midnight Eastern, the US leaves the Paris Agreement, the 2015 pact between 197 countries to stop global warming “well below” 2C, and work to hold it at 1.5C. Donald Trump formally withdrew the US from the global climate pact on November 4, 2019. The timing in relation to the US election is coincidental, but the outcome of the election will impact what comes next.

What happens next if Donald Trump wins the election: The US, the second-largest polluter in the world, stays out of the Paris Agreement, and thus formally out of climate geopolitics. Europe will have to lead on climate efforts, and it takes pressure off other major polluters such as Brazil and India. Politico writes:

The US State Department will no longer be an active member at UN climate meetings on the Paris deal. But it will remain an observer, allowed to sit in, and a member of the UN Framework Climate Convention (of which the Paris deal is just a part). No one really knows how this will work.

Sue Biniaz, the state department’s lead climate lawyer for the four administrations before Trump’s, told Climate Home News:

I imagine [the US] would continue to participate as a party to the UNFCCC and as an observer to Paris.

[The US will] still play a role. It is impossible that they will be disregarded all together.

What happens next if Joe Biden wins the election: Biden says he will re-enter the Paris Agreement with an executive order on his first day in office. The US would then need to submit a nationally determined contribution, or emissions-slashing plan. Politico continues:

There is the question of money. The US committed $3 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer countries cope with climate change and move to clean energy. Obama paid $1 billion of that amount.

Biden has said he will ‘recommit’ to the fund, which implies back-paying the US debt. But that commitment is several years old and the hosts of COP26 — the UK government — are calling for rich countries to double their previous climate finance commitments.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.