This thesis is about the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement (PA) and examines how this occurrence possibly changed the perceptions in US Congress regarding global climate change governance (GCCG). To research this subject, a comparison is made between the perceptions of Congress during the Obama administration, the Trump administration before the withdrawal, and the Trump administration after the withdrawal. To investigate GCCG, this concept is defined using four related concepts: accountability, legitimacy, responsibility, and transparency. This thesis relies on a qualitative research approach and has an intertemporal single case study design. This enables the thorough analysis and comparison of the perceptions of Congress. The perceptions are examined using the Congressional Records in which the debates of Congress are documented. The results of the analysis have discovered that even though the US withdrew from the PA under the Trump administration, the perceptions in Congress regarding GCCG only encountered small changes. To explain the results of the analysis, three theories are used: historical institutionalism, regime theory, and hegemonic stability theory. The theories explain that even though Obama bypassed Congress in signing the PA, this move was greatly applauded, mainly among the democratic Congress members who considered its crucial role in combatting climate change globally. This perception prevailed, also during the Trump administration, which shows the PA had created a new path and lock-in of the perceptions regarding GCCG in Congress. On the one hand, it is argued that the PA created a lock-in because Congress considered the US leadership role in GCCG as vital. This did not change with the Trump administration’s withdrawal. On the other hand, the PA created a lock-in because it led to Congress members perceiving international cooperation regarding climate change as important. This also changed barely with the withdrawal. These considerations have led to the following main argument. Because the PA created a lock-in of the perceptions of Congress regarding the importance of US leadership and international cooperation in GCCG, when the withdrawal was initiated, Congress focused even more on those values and on convincing the Trump administration of their importance. Hence, the focus became more prominent on the inward developments regarding climate change than what other countries were doing.

Dr. Darren McCauley, Prof. Adria Albareda Sanz
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Luca Frantzen. (2021, June 25). THE US WITHDRAWAL FROM THE PARIS AGREEMENT. Public Administration. Retrieved from