Revised Trump administration statements indicate possible policy change on climate change

By: Tahleia Bishop, CIB Americas Desk
Analytical Question: Will the US leave the Paris Climate Agreement in 2018?

Concern about climate change has led to several legislative attempts aimed at environmental protection. Arguably the most prevalent of these is the United Nations (UN) Paris Climate Agreement. An international treaty, the Paris Agreement commits signed nations to reducing their respective greenhouse gas emissions, and to collectively keeping the global temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius over the next 80 years. The United States notably signed on to this agreement in 2016 under the Obama administration. However, given President Trump’s stated skepticism about climate change, there has been much speculation regarding the US’ future adherence to the Agreement under his administration. Regardless of past indications, the Trump administration’s stance toward the Paris Climate Agreement appears to have shifted following an open letter from several of the country’s largest companies and wealthiest investors. This shift potentially indicates an inclination by the Trump administration to acquiesce to pressure from corporate interests. In light of this, it can be stated with moderate confidence that President Donald Trump will not remove America from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2018.

Donald Trump has held firm to his denial of climate change for several years. During his run for the presidency, he campaigned on “cancelling” the climate agreement and stopping all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs (Light and Waskow 2017). In line with his beliefs, Trump nominated ExxonMobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, for Secretary of State in December of 2016. The nomination of the head of the world’s largest oil and gas company (Gensler 2017) casts further doubt on the future of America’s environmental policies, including its involvement in the Paris Agreement (Hulac and Chemnick 2017).

On January 10, 2017, 200 investors with over $2 trillion in assets, as well as some of America’s largest companies, which collectively employ nearly 2 million people and take in an annual revenue of $1.15 trillion, signed an open letter to the Trump administration. The letter underscored their support for environmental protection and the Paris Agreement. Correspondingly, on January 11, during his confirmation hearing, nominee Rex Tillerson stated his belief in the importance of America staying at the Paris Agreement round table, so as to “understand its impacts on the American people and American competitiveness” (Tollefson 2017). This variance from previous messages issued by Trump and his nominated personnel set the stage for a potential remodeling of the Trump administration’s attitude toward the Paris Agreement. It is likely that Trump and those in his cabinet will be willing to deviate from campaign promises, in the belief that keeping major businesses content help keep a stable economy.

Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has vacillated on climate change and the Paris Agreement. Scientific American describes America’s future in the climate change fight as “uncertain” due to the conflicting statements and ideologies coming from the Trump administration. Yet based on recent statements by Secretary of State Tillerson and the administration’s proclaimed focus on businesses in America, it can be stated with moderate confidence that President Trump will not remove America from the Paris Agreement in 2018.


Gensler, Lauren. (2017) “The World’s Largest Oil and Gas Companies 2016.” Forbes. 26 May 2017. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017
Hulac, Benjamin & Chemnick, Jean. “Future of Paris Accord Uncertain as Tillerson Becomes Secretary of State.” Scientific American. 2 February 2017. Accessed 12 Feb. 2017
Light, Andrew & Waskow, David. “America Can’t Afford to Be a Climate Loner.” World Resources Institute. 25 January 2017. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017
Tollefson, Jeff. “Trump’s Pick for Secretary of State Backs Paris Climate Accord.” Scientific American. 12 January 2017. Accessed 15 Feb. 2017