RMI Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement


We are greatly disappointed in President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Paris Agreement constitutes humanity’s best effort to put a global governance mechanism in place to address the global climate change threat. It is and will remain an unprecedented achievement by nations who have shown the political will to jointly tackle the unprecedented challenge that global warming presents. The withdrawal of the United States will significantly undermine these efforts, as the U.S. is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases per capita. However, we are confident that the Paris Agreement will endure.

U.S. climate action will not go dark. We are encouraged by the efforts of American states, cities, and businesses that strive to reduce emissions and whose efforts will carry on undeterred by this federal decision. In fact, the commitments of governors, mayors, and business leaders to join forces to aggregate their climate actions demonstrate the degree to which the United States will continue to lead on climate even as the federal administration takes a step backward. This effort, which could be aggregated as an alternative NDC (nationally determined contribution) or an “SDC—societally determined contribution,” could seek to show that on many of the most important climate metrics—from share of renewable energy to investment in clean mobility solutions—the actions of states, cities, and companies will keep the United States moving forward, albeit at a less aggressive pace than would be the case otherwise.

The energy transition to renewables and energy efficiency will continue unabated. This is evident year after year, both in the U.S. and abroad. In the electricity system, renewable energy and natural gas together produced half of U.S. electricity supplies last year, while coal made up only 30 percent—the smallest share since officials started keeping track 70 years ago. States from New York to Oregon to Michigan have raised their Renewable Portfolio Standards, which set requirements for utilities to source energy from renewable projects. And corporations signed 2.5 gigawatts worth of long-term power contracts with wind and solar projects last year. While jobs in the coal industry won’t come back, those in solar, wind, energy efficiency, and spin-off industries will only grow. The U.S. solar industry employed 260,077 workers last year, a nearly 25 percent increase in the number of jobs since 2015. Betting on energy technologies of the past is bad for business and bad for jobs.

And in fact, in other parts of the world, leaders fully appreciate the power of this new industrial revolution, and are standing ready to step into the leadership void that will be created by the U.S. withdrawal from Paris. China, India, and Europe, together with all but three countries around the world (Syria, Nicaragua, and now the U.S.) are committed to implementing the Paris agreement even after this set back.

At Rocky Mountain Institute, we will stay focused on our mission to transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future, and we work with all willing partners to do so.


Jules Kortenhorst