What is the Paris climate agreement? 9 things to know

Published: Thursday, June 01, 2017 @ 2:55 PM

U.S. Withdraws From Paris Climate Deal

President Donald Trump will announce plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

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“Trump will argue that the Paris pact is a bad deal for American workers and was poorly negotiated by the Obama administration,” according to the AP.

Here are nine things to know about the Paris climate agreement:

What is it?

The Paris climate agreement, also referred to as the Paris climate accord, the Paris climate deal or the Paris agreement, is a pact sponsored by the United Nations to bring the world’s countries together in the fight against climate change.

» Related: Trump resisting pressure from Europe, pope on climate deal 

What is the overall mission?

Countries that sign on to the pact agree to limit the century’s global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the levels from the years 1850-1900 (the pre-industrial era).

The agreement also imposes a more rigid goal of limiting temperature increases to only 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels.

What is each country responsible for?

Under the agreement, every country has an individual plan (or “nationally determined contribution”) to tackle its greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, under the Obama administration, the U.S. vowed to cut its emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025.

» Related: 22 GOP senators want US to pull out of Paris climate accord

When did the agreement go into effect?

The agreement went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016, 30 days after at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of the world’s global emissions ratified it.

Is it legally binding?

According to the U.N.’s website on climate change, the agreement has a “hybrid of legally binding and nonbinding provisions.”

But there’s no clear-cut consequence or penalty for countries that fall short of their pledged goals.

How many nations are part of the accord?

As of May 2017, of the 195 negotiating countries that signed the agreement, 147 parties have ratified it.

» Related: Georgia impacted by Paris climate deal 

How does withdrawal from the agreement work?

According to The New York Times, the Trump administration can either request a formal withdrawal, which takes four years, or it could withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change altogether.

If the U.S. withdraws from the underlying convention, it would signal the country’s departure from any United Nations-sponsored climate discussions. 

How would U.S. withdrawal affect national and global efforts against climate change?

According to The New York Times, a U.S. withdrawal could “seriously weaken global efforts to avoid drastic climate change.” 

Instead of cutting emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 (the nation’s original pledge under the Obama administration), an analysis by Rhodium Group estimated that emissions would fall just 15 to 19 percent below 2005 levels. 

» Related: EU official says EU, China to reaffirm support for climate pact 

“Pulling out of Paris is the biggest thing Trump could do to unravel Obama's climate legacy,” Axios' Jonathan Swan wrote early Wednesday. “It sends a combative signal to the rest of the world that America doesn't prioritize climate change and threatens to unravel the ambition of the entire deal.”

The effects of U.S. withdrawal on global efforts will depend heavily on how other countries react, but the nation could still face some diplomatic consequences for leaving, including possible carbon tariffs imposed on the U.S., The New York Times reported.

Would the U.S. be the only U.N. country not supporting the deal?

No, but the only other two U.N.-member countries that aren’t supportive of the Paris climate agreement are Nicaragua and Syria.

At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Nicaragua representative Dr. Paul Oquist said the agreement didn’t go far enough, adding that voluntary responsibilities are a path to failure, TelesurTV reported.

According to the Financial Times, Nicaragua is responsible for only.03 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Syria, which is in the middle of a civil war, was responsible for .19 percent of global emissions in 2011, when the war began.

In 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States was responsible for approximately 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more at the official website for the Paris climate agreement.

Electricity generating wind turbine on the Champs Elysees as part of the 2015 Climate Change summit held in Paris, France(davidf/Getty Images)

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Trump goes after Mueller – a new strategy on the Russia probe?

Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 6:49 PM

As President Donald Trump this weekend repeated some of his complaints about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether it involved anyone on his campaign, Mr. Trump did something unusual – sending out a pair of his tweets which included the name of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading that investigation.

It was the first time on Twitter that the President had more directly taken aim at Mueller, a former FBI Director who was named by the Trump Justice Department in 2017 to investigate the charge of Russian meddling in last year’s elections.

Were the weekend mentions of Mueller a new game plan from the President? Or just more of him venting frustration about the Russia investigation?

1. Is Trump now going to more publicly confront Mueller? Before this weekend, President Trump had mentioned the Special Counsel’s name in a tweet just one time, back in December. But this weekend, the President did it twice. “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” Mr. Trump said in a familiar refrain about the investigation. But his next tweet went further, directly accusing Mueller of putting together a biased investigation. In the process, the New York Times reported that the President shrugged off the advice of his legal team to not even mention Mueller’s name. Democrats in Congress said the Twitter volleys showed one thing – that the President is feeling pressure from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

2. Trump lawyer calls for end to Mueller probe. While the President condemned the Russia investigation, one of his lawyers, John Dowd, went a step further, saying it was time for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to bring the Mueller probe to a close. Asked about that on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) basically told lawyer John Dowd to shut up, saying no matter what you think of the issue of collusion, Mueller’s task is to find out how Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. “To suggest that Mueller should shut down, and all he is looking at is collusion – if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it,” Gowdy said bluntly. Gowdy was one of the few Republicans to address the issue on Sunday.

3. Most Republicans say little about Trump-Mueller. About 12 hours after the President’s Sunday morning tweets, one of his White House lawyers sent word that the President was not “considering or discussing the firing of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.” But Democrats said that’s the way it looked to them, and a handful of Republicans joined in airing similar concerns. “It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in a statement. “Members of Congress need to be vocal in support of Special Counsel Mueller finishing his investigation,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). But there were few other Republicans making such statements.

4. Mueller remains silent on Russia investigation. While the President has expended a lot of energy in recent months raising questions about the Russia probe, Special Counsel Mueller has said nothing. He has not appeared in public to discuss the investigation. He has not released any statements on all the furor surrounding the investigation. He has not taken issue with any comments by the President. Instead, Mueller has let the guilty pleas and indictments do the talking for him, as several people who worked for the Trump Campaign have already plead guilty to lying to the FBI about their conversations related to Russia. For some Republicans, Mueller’s work has already gone on too long.

5. Few details on the firing of ex-FBI official Andrew McCabe. The weekend got off to a fast start at 10 pm on Friday night, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. No paperwork was released, so despite a lot of press reports on what exactly happened, we haven’t seen any part of an internal investigation that’s being done on the way top FBI brass handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and the Trump-Russia probe. While the President celebrated the firing of McCabe – “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – most GOP lawmakers stayed quiet. On Sunday, Trump accused both McCabe, and former FBI Director James Comey of fabricating evidence against him. “Fake memos,” he wrote. One Republican who raised a red flag about the firing of McCabe was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who expressed concern about a bureaucratic process involving federal workers that usually takes much longer to complete.

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Trump lashes out at Mueller, Comey, McCabe, over Russia probe

Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 4:44 AM

Continuing to attack the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any links to his campaign, President Donald Trump on Sunday went on Twitter to attack the veracity of former top officials of the FBI, accusing them of lying, and making up information to use against him in the Special Counsel’s investigation.

As he attacked former FBI Director James Comey, and recently fired top FBI official Andrew McCabe, Mr. Trump appeared to be watching television on Sunday morning, citing one of his favorite Fox News programs, Fox and Friends.

“Wow, watch Comey lie under oath,” the President tweeted at one point, moving on to take more jabs at McCabe, who was fired on Friday.

“I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at later date,” the President wrote. “Can we call them the fake memos?”

On Twitter in recent days, Mr. Trump has again focused his ire on the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, once more making the argument that the FBI went easy on Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, and showed bias on the Trump-Russia probe.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” the President tweeted, ending with a familiar line: “WITCH HUNT!”

Mueller’s probe has already netted a series of guilty pleas from people who worked for the President’s campaign, with two specifically pleading guilty to lying about contacts involving Russia.

As the President used Twitter as his bully pulpit, one of the President’s lawyers also stirred the pot by saying it was time to end the Mueller investigation, which many in Washington believe is far from being complete.

Democrats in Congress again warned the President not to try to end that probe.

“What, Mr. President, are you hiding from the American people?” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).

“Thou doth protest too much, methinks,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).

“This shows how scared the Trump Administration is about what Mueller will find,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “This investigation must continue.”

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With retirement of acting chief, NASA finds itself in leadership limbo

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2018 @ 1:00 AM

After operating for more than a year with a temporary chief, NASA faces an unprecedented leadership bind as its acting Administrator announced this week that he would retire at the end of April, with no hint that the Senate will vote by then on President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the space agency.

“It has been a long process but we are optimistic that the vote will come soon,” said Sheryl Kaufman, the Communications Director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

“We hope that happens soon,” said Rep. Bruce Babin (R-TX), as House Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence pressed the Senate for action on Bridenstine.

The problem for Bridenstine is that just one Republican has refused to support him for the job as NASA Administrator – that being Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – and with only a bare majority, and the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Bridenstine does not have the votes to win.

Since President Trump took office in January of 2017, NASA has been led by Robert Lightfoot, a well-respected NASA veteran who has drawn bipartisan praise.

But with Lightfoot announcing this week that he is retiring – effective April 30 – it’s possible that NASA could be forced to dig deeper down the depth chart for another temporary leader at the space agency.

“Robert Lightfoot has served NASA exceptionally well for nearly 30 years,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the head of the House Science Committee.

Apart from a couple of major issues, Bridenstine in 2017 did not cast votes on regular legislation in the House – while waiting for his Senate confirmation.

This year has been different – Bridenstine is voting on most legislation in the House, except for measures that deal with NASA.

“He will represent his constituents as fully as possible while awaiting the confirmation vote by the full Senate,” said his spokeswoman.

But without enough support, there’s no hint of a vote on Bridenstine in the Senate.

“The facts of this nomination have not changed,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) back in January – and two months later, that statement is still true.

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Russia investigation: Special counsel Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization

Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 3:57 PM
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 3:48 PM

Robert Mueller - Fast Facts


Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump and his associates, according to multiple reports.

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The subpoena is the first directly connected to one of Trump’s businesses, The New York Times reported Thursday. The newspaper was the first to report on the subpoena, citing two unidentified sources briefed on the situation.

The breadth of the subpoena was not immediately clear, although some documents sought were related to Russia, the Times reported. According to the newspaper, the subpoena was served “in recent weeks.”

>> More on Robert Mueller's investigation

The Trump Organization has already provided investigators with a range of documents, most focused on the period between when Trump announced his candidacy for president, in June 2015, to his inauguration, in January 2017, CNN reported in January. Citing an unidentified source familiar with the situation, the news network reported that the recently issued subpoena was meant “to ‘clean up’ and to ensure that all related documents are handed over to the special counsel.”

In a statement released to several news outlets Thursday, Alan Futerfas, an attorney representing the Trump Organization, said reports of the subpoena were “old news.”

>> Related: Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates to plead guilty in Mueller investigation

“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests,” Futerfas said. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”

The decision to subpoena the Trump Organization, which is owned by the president and managed by his children, appeared to mirror the strategy employed by Mueller with the Trump campaign, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper noted that the campaign “voluntarily gave documents to the special counsel for months before receiving a subpoena in October.”

>> Related: Mueller indicts 13 Russians, 3 Russian entities in election meddling probe

Mueller, who headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013, was appointed by the Justice Department in May 2017 to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. His investigation has thus far led to several indictments and a handful of guilty pleas from people connected to Trump.

Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities last month on accusations that they interfered with American elections and political processes, starting in 2014. On Twitter, Trump claimed that information in the indictments proved his innocence on allegations of colluding with Russia to win the election.

Five people have pleaded guilty to charges levied against them in Mueller's investigation. Most recently, former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiring against the United States.

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