U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement on June 1, raising concerns across the globe. But his decision was not unexpected, because the Republican Party was opposed to the Paris climate pact from the beginning, and during his presidential campaign Trump had criticized the global agreement.
And since the U.S.' withdrawal might not affect the agreement as much as some fear－since its enforcement is flexible－we should not overreact to Trump's decision. Of real importance is the fact that the U.S. Congress ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, which actually has a binding force. As a party to the convention, the U.S. is legally bound to send representatives to participate in the UN climate change conferences every year.
Besides, the U.S. federal government cannot prevent its states from taking part in the global fight against climate change, and those states can play a more constructive role in intensifying the fight.
Some European countries advocating new energy sources and cutting carbon emissions might be upset by the U.S.' withdrawal from the Paris pact, but they should have been prepared for this given Trump's promise to do so.
It is obvious that Trump follows a dogmatic principle, and his administration has given up the "soft power" philosophy that his predecessor Barack Obama followed. Yet one cannot say the U.S. will give up its global leadership and its withdrawal from the climate deal will compromise its soft power. Four or eight years later when a new U.S. president takes office and adopts the same "soft power" philosophy, the country could be an even stronger soft power.
The actual effect of the U.S.' withdrawal from the climate pact lies in slowing the U.S. economy's pace of shifting to a new-energy mode and using new energy sources. Which offers a good opportunity to China and other countries to expedite their energy transformation.
The author is a senior researcher in U.S. studies at Sun Yat-sen University, and a senior guest researcher at the Center for China and Globalization.