Every detail about Trump's climate change announcement explained.

The news of Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate deal has been met with fierce, fast and unrelenting global condemnation.

Past and present world leaders, climate change experts and even US politicians within Trump’s orbit have voiced their disappointment in the decision, saying it will leave the US, its citizens and the rest of the world far worse off.

So how on the money are they? Is Trump truly losing the plot, or are there fragments of merit to his controversial call?

If you’re feeling a bit worried about the world, listen to the very first episode of Tell Me It’s Going To Be Ok…

With the help of Emma Shortis, Lecturer of American History at the University of Melbourne, we break down what this news, critique and political and diplomatic chaos really means.

Firstly: what is the Paris deal?

In December 2015, after weeks of tense negotiations, the Paris climate agreement was drafted in a document that stretches about 31 pages.

The deal’s overriding purpose was to set a global target of keeping the average global temperatures from rising two degrees by the end of the century. If the temperatures were to rise more than two degrees, the UN warns of ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ impact. We risk higher seas and, among a host of other issues, a global food and water crisis.

The Paris deal, signed by every country apart from Syria and Nicaragua, set a precedent for action against climate change environmentalists had been pushing for. Instead of dictating how countries were to reduce emissions, it provides a framework for how to go about starting. Ultimately, the pact is voluntary are there are no real consequences for countries who fail to meet their targets aside from the hope peer pressure would hold states accountable.

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Image: Getty.

Why is the agreement important?

According to Emma Shortis of the University of Melbourne, Paris was seen as a "big achievement" because the United States had signed on.


"Any international agreement  - especially an agreement on climate change - needs US involvement in order to be successful," Shortis says, particularly because the US is the biggest carbon polluter in history.

"It was looking like the world might be moving forward and setting real targets," she said, adding Paris was the "first real success in climate change in a really long time".

Why did Trump pull out?

A legitimate but separate response to that question would be another question: Why does Trump do anything?

Snark aside, the president believes he is making this call for the good of the American people.

Part of the Paris agreement is the understanding rich countries will help poor countries with financial aid. After all, nations like the US have made serious coin from the use of fossil fuels. Poorer countries seeking to grow their economies now don't have the same opportunity to use and abuse the same fuels.

Trump said the agreement would make it "very hard" for the US "to compete with the rest of the world". He also believes leaving the pact would save 2.7 million jobs in manufacturing.

Shortis, however, does not believe Trump's reasoning has the long-term in mind.

"I don't believe signing onto the accord would cost jobs in the long-term. In fact, I think it would create jobs in the long-term because it fosters the creation of renewable energy," she tells Mamamia.

How big of an effect will Trump's call have?

Sizeable, Shortis says. Yes, the Paris deal is "largely symbolic" and it will take more active and decisive action to create real and meaningful change, but Shortis fears Trump's decision to remove the US from the deal will ultimately give other countries "permission to pull out".

"[On top of this], it also means the US aren't acting to combat climate change and that they will no doubt continue down the path of using coal and oil," she says.

"If not everyone buys in, then we can't create real change. This could allow other countries to ignore the pact - to sign on but not actually act."

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More importantly, it speaks to Trump's core beliefs about climate change, and that in itself will have a major effect on our ability to reach global targets.

"As far as I can see, all of Trump's policies about the environment are bad for the environment," Shortis says, adding that all you have to do is look at Trump's aides, who have suggested investing in combating climate is "a waste of money", to see where the President's priorities lie.

Presumably, Shortis is referring to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who just last month said cuts to climate spending were important because they were a "waste of money".

"There was a lot of build-up about Trump's decision," Shortis says, "but he was never going to stay in. What he was actually doing was creating a media circus, revelling in beating the environmentalists from the left, letting them know he is in charge."


Ultimately, she says, it's "totally reflective of what he is doing at home" and that's "what really matters".

What is everyone else saying?

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement voicing “regret” at the decision.

“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,” read the statement from French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

The executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, Erik Solheim, has said “the biggest losers will be the American people.”

Former President Barack Obama also released a statement on Thursday to defend the Paris agreement he was so passionate about signing.

“I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said.

“But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

Is there a chance the US can get back in?

Perhaps, yes.

Trump has said he is interested in "re-negotiating" the deal to find one that benefits the US a little better.

"It is possible to renegotiate, but then, any agreement that suits Trump isn't going to be an agreement that will do anything about climate change," Shortis says.

"Countries like Germany will resistant to lowering the bar to make it acceptable for Trump."

After all, if Trump doesn't conceivably think climate change is a "thing", then a deal to combat climate change that appeases his preferences isn't a deal about climate change at all.

It is important to recognise, however, the decision can be reversed by Trump or even the next President of the United States. As a result, it will no doubt be a key driver in the 2020 election campaign.

What does it mean for Australia?

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told the ABC on Friday morning the Paris accord still has the full support and commitment from the Australian government.

He says Trump's move is regrettable, adding, "it would have been preferable for the United States to remain at the table".

"Donald Trump's announcement today is obviously very significant but Australia will carry on because as our prime minister has made very clear when we sign up to international agreements... we will follow through."