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Trump Slams Paris Agreement: ‘Like Hell It’s Non-Binding’

President Donald Trump Wednesday defended his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, claiming the U.S. would have faced international lawsuits if it stayed in the deal.

“And they all say it’s non-binding. Like hell it’s non-binding,” Trump said at a campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “When we get sued by everybody because we thought it was non-binding, then you can tell me it was non-binding.”

The Senate never voted to ratify the agreement due to the Obama administration’s claim that it was a non-binding deal.

But conservative groups argued that the deal was binding, and urged Trump to leave the deal to allow the U.S. to have more flexibility in reversing former President Barack Obama’s climate regulations.

Trump said if the U.S. were to stay in the Paris Agreement, it would have resulted in “millions of lost jobs” for Americans and “billions and billions of lost dollars,” putting the U.S. at a “permanent economic disadvantage” on the world stage.

“It’s a catastrophe if we would have agreed,” he said.

Trump praised the American people for seeing through the narrative of the press.

“It’s amazing how the people of this country get it because the press covers it so unfairly,” he said.

However, Trump’s notion that the agreement is legally binding appears to contradict what he said earlier this month about the deal’s non-binding nature.

“Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump said June 1 at a Rose Garden media conference.

In addition, there’s no legal mechanism in place to enforce the provisions of the deal through the United Nations.

“The key question will be implementing the agreement. There’s no legal enforcement of pledges,” said Robert Watson, the former head of the U.N.’s panel of climate experts, after the deal took effect in October.

Individual nations could impose sanctions on the U.S. following Trump’s decision to exit the deal, but no nations have taken such actions as of now.

Perhaps the reason for Trump’s flip-flop on the binding nature of the Paris Agreement can be attributed to the fact that it is both binding and non-binding, according to Just Security’s Tess Bridgeman, a former special assistant to Obama.

“The non-binding nature of the emissions targets is a central and purposeful feature of the Paris Agreement,” she wrote, citing the fact every country under the deal sets their own emissions target.

The binding portions of the deal, according to Bridgeman, “govern the mechanics and timeline of withdrawal.”

The global community will only recognize a legal withdrawal from the climate agreement according to the terms specified by the agreement.

Because of this, and in spite of Trump’s rhetoric, “the United States cannot legally withdraw from the Agreement until November 4, 2020, at the earliest – one day after the next U.S. Presidential election,” according to Bridgeman.

A report by Axios says that the Trump administration is seeking a way to legally withdraw from the agreement before the end of his first term.

“Details on how the withdrawal will be executed are being worked out by a small team including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt,” Axios reporter Jonathan Swan wrote. “They’re deciding on whether to initiate a full, formal withdrawal — which could take 3 years — or exit the underlying United Nations climate change treaty, which would be faster but more extreme.”