VT expert, present at Paris Agreement signing, talks U.S. pull out

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement has many wondering what this means for southwest Virginia.

An expert with a unique point of view is Carol Franco, a Senior Research Associate at Virginia Tech in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.

But back in 2015 she was at the signing of the Paris Agreement, representing the Dominican Republic.

She explained the purpose of the agreement was to hold the increase in temperature to less than two degrees Celsius above the per-industrial levels.

Each of the 195 countries made pledges to lower greenhouse gases, with the United States promising to lower the country's level by 28%.

She said the United States pulling out of the agreement could be bad, as it goes against all but two other countries in the world.

However President Trump believes it's an important step in his plan to put American workers first.

Franco said, "Tensions will happen, I'm just hoping that those tensions will not be enough to completely destroy relations and that we can continue to engage in a dialogue."

The U.S. pulling out could also lead to other countries following suit.

But President Trump said Thursday his primary focus is on the United States, and the current deal hurts numerous industries, including one close to the SWVA region.

The President explained, "The current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America, which it does, and the mines are starting to open up. Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places."

However Franco said, "Yes it will hurt and I understand that's a huge and important sector, but at the same time it was not just going to be like, 'Okay, you have no jobs.' It was like, 'Okay, this is going to change into something else.'"

The President did say this may not be a permanent decision to pull out, though.

"The United States will begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or a really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States," he explained.

But after seeing the negotiations in 2015, Franco did not think an all new deal be worked out?

"It was an enormous and an unprecedented effort, and the other 194 countries are agreeing with the Agreement, so you can't just erase it and start from scratch and spend 10 years writing a new agreement," she said.

Franco also pointed out President Trump didn't like the U.S.'s 28% lower greenhouse gasses pledge.

But she said the original plan would have allowed him to reduce it next year, if he claimed there were national circumstances.

Now she says other countries have to fill the gap, like the European Union and China, which have taken over leadership in the Agreement.