Ozymandias: President Trump pulls U.S. out of Paris Climate Accords and reviews National Monuments

President Trump faces stark criticism as he fulfills campaign promises concerning important environmental decisions.

An English poet named wrote a poem entitled “Ozymandias” in 1818.  The poem depicts a huge statue of a man, and all that was left of the statue was its two legs and a pedestal.  “And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!’”  Only sand and ruins remained beside the statue, despite all that Ozymandias claimed to be and claimed to have accomplished.

Fast-forward to 2017. Scientific consensus shows climate change has the potential to cripple the human race and bring devastation to the world.  Melting ice caps raise the sea levels and flood coastal and island communities, forcing mass migration.  Shorter winters and hotter summers cut crop production and shrink the amount of fresh water available for human consumption, causing famines and threatening the available drinking water left on the planet.

The Paris Agreement was one of the few times the globe came together and agreed to unite to affect change.

In 2014, the world met in Paris to take a stand against climate change.  The Paris Agreement was one of the few times the globe came together and agreed to unite to affect change.  Only two of the countries of the world did not sign the agreement.  Nicaragua did not sign because it felt that the agreement was too soft on climate change.  Syria did not sign because they could not get a representative to Paris at the time due to a civil war and sanctions placed on Syria by the U.S. and European Union.  Even North Korea signed the Paris Agreement.

The Campbell Law Observer previously posted an article concerning the Paris Agreement and the early indications of President Trump’s environmental policy.

President Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, fulfilling one of his campaign promises.  Citing that the Paris Agreement was a “bad deal” for Americans, the President stated that the government should be focusing on deals that created jobs, not ones that take them away.  He stated, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”  Part of his campaign promises was to bring back the coal jobs to the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, but with the Paris Agreement such jobs would only contribute to the nation’s greenhouse emissions and inhibit achievement of the agreement’s goals.

Under the Paris Agreement, signatories would contribute to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer nations reach their environmental goal, report carbon data, and pledge to reduce emissions in their home countries in an effort to keep global temperatures from rising no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  As the world’s largest economy and second largest greenhouse gas contributor, the U.S. pledged to contribute $3 billion to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, and $15 million annually. Now, the Green Fund will lack its biggest contributor, as well as its ability to fund more green energy projects.

Some 1,370 businesses, such as Nike, Ford, and ExxonMobil, as well as numerous investors, have committed to limiting their emissions and impact on the environment.

President Trump’s decision has garnered international criticism for his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.   issued a joint statement stating their regret for the decision but declared their “strongest commitment” to the Paris Agreement.  U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thought the decision was “a major disappointment.”  Even North Korea called the decision “the height of egotism and moral vacuum” and a “shortsighted and silly decision.”

At home, the decision has not been without critics.  Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) released a statement saying, “President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace.”  Former Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with NPR, said, “The Paris Agreement’s going to continue without the United States of America.  And I believe America is going to continue to remain committed to the Paris Agreement.”

States and companies have shown John Kerry’s statements to be true.  Some 1,370 businesses, such as Nike, Ford, and ExxonMobil, and investors have committed to limiting their emissions and impact on the environment.  Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford declared, “We believe climate change is real, and remain deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities.”  Twelve states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont, and Virginia, have committed to the U.S. Climate Alliance and are taking steps at the state level to combat climate change.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated, “The U.S. Climate Alliance is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions.”  Furthermore, Bloomberg Philanthropies pledged to fulfill the $15 million contribution originally promised by the U.S. to the Green Fund.

In addition to his recent criticism for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, President Trump has also been under scrutiny by some for his proposal to review several national monuments.

Described by President Trump as a “massive federal land grab,” he wishes to return control to the states and allow more jobs to be created through access to these lands. 

Despite the backlash, President Trump asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review national monuments of 100,000 acres or greater created since 1996.  Described by President Trump as a “massive federal land grab,” he wishes to return control to the states and allow more jobs to be created through access to these lands.  These monuments were created under the Antiquities Act.

The Antiquities Act was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Although the law is only four paragraphs long, it gives the President wide discretion over the creation of national monuments.  Under the Act, Theodore Roosevelt preserved Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, just to name a couple.  Congress later made these areas and several other monuments into national parks.  Every President since Theodore Roosevelt, except Ronald Regan, has created a national monument.  While some of the monuments have decreased in size over the years, none have been fully de-nationalized.  Furthermore, the Act itself does not say whether a President can fully de-nationalize a monument created by a previous President.

The Secretary of the Interior is scheduled to give a report of his findings sometime this month.  The review will include national monuments such as Bear Ears in Utah created by President Obama in 2016, located just north of Monument Valley National Park, as well as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument established by President Bush in 2008, which preserved Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.  Numerous protests and petitions have come out since the review was announced in late April.

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About Claire Scott (17 Articles)
Claire Scott is a third year law student and serves as a Senior Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. Originally from Chesapeake, VA, Claire is a Campbell University alumi. After her 1L summer, she worked in the Harnett County NC District Attorney's Office as well as the District 11A Veteran Treatment Court. Her legal interests include estate planning and veteran law.