03:08 - Source: CNN
What happens if U.S. pulls out of Paris climate accord?

Story highlights

Guterres did not mention Trump by name in his speech

The Trump administration is expected to withdraw from the agreement

(CNN) —  

In five months in office, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, has so far publicly avoided challenging new US President Donald Trump.

But on Tuesday, he threw the equivalent of a last-minute “Hail Mary” pass during a speech at New York University – making the case for the US to remain committed to the Paris climate accord in terms that he hoped would change Trump’s mind, by warning of a drop in the US’s global influence if it pulls out of the agreement.

Guterres did not mention Trump by name in his speech, although a western diplomat noted to CNN that “the speech was aimed at the Trump administration.” But Guterres used a physics comparison to explain what would happen if the US did, in fact, leave the Paris agreement.

“It’s proven now that vacuum can exist in physics. But vacuum cannot exist in geostrategic dimensions,” he said. “Which means that if one country decides not to be present – and I’m talking about countries with an important global reach like the United States or China – if one country decides to leave a void, I can guarantee someone else will occupy it.”

CNN reported Wednesday morning that the Trump administration was expected to withdraw from the agreement, which was ratified by 147 countries. A formal announcement is expected at some point this week, but two senior US officials familiar with Trump’s plans cautioned they could change until Trump makes his decision public.

Guterres said in a speech Tuesday that he believes climate change can’t be denied, and added: “It is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement.”

In the question-and-answer session that followed, Guterres stated plainly that it’s important for the US to not leave the Paris agreement. He added that he hoped that despite Trump’s choice, state and local governments and businesses would jump in to help in the climate fight.

“When you disagree with someone, you try to convince that person, no?” he said. “It’s the same with administrations. We are engaging with the American administration. We believe it would be important for the US not to leave the Paris agreement. But even if the US government decides to leave the Paris agreement, it’s very important for the US societies as a whole, for the cities, the states, the companies, the business to remain engaged with the Paris agreement – so it is very clear that governments are not everything.”

The UN tweeted Guterres’ remarks Wednesday in the wake of Trump’s decision.

“Climate change is undeniable

Climate action is unstoppable

Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.

-@antonioguterres,” the tweet read.

Guterres has had to tread carefully when it comes to the US, the largest financial donor to the UN. Trump and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley are demanding budget cuts and personnel reductions. But his comments Tuesday at NYU were some of his boldest to date.

The speech was a “calculated gamble,” Richard Gowan, a fellow at NYU’s Center on International Cooperation, said, adding that Trump may “react badly” to even a limited challenge from the UN, which he views with suspicion.

“Guterres may calculate that Trump cannot face the idea of a drop in US influence, even if he doesn’t care about carbon emissions,” Gowan said. “This speech was both a plea and a threat to Trump. Guterres pressed the case for the US to stick with the Paris deal, but also left no doubt that China can and will replace America as the global leader in the fight against climate change.”

01:35 - Source: CNN
See what security looks like outside US Capitol
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:35
See what security looks like outside US Capitol
PHOTO: Getty Images/CNN
Now playing
02:18
Bash: This is why key GOP senator is fighting Biden's stimulus
PHOTO: YouTube/Everyday Astronaut
Now playing
01:19
Watch SpaceX Mars prototype rocket nail landing, explode on pad
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16:  Physician to U.S. President Donald Trump Dr. Ronny Jackson listens during the daily White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Dr. Jackson discussed the details of President TrumpÕs physical check-up from last week.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Physician to U.S. President Donald Trump Dr. Ronny Jackson listens during the daily White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Dr. Jackson discussed the details of President TrumpÕs physical check-up from last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:14
DOD releases scathing review of former White House physician
PHOTO: CNN/Getty
Now playing
02:10
'Highly misleading at best': Dale reacts to Pence's op-ed
PHOTO: Gov. Cuomo's office
Now playing
03:35
Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses women's allegations
Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard Major General William J. Walker testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard Major General William J. Walker testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:01
DC National Guard commander: 'Unusual' Pentagon restrictions slowed response to Capitol riot
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
PHOTO: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Now playing
03:00
Hear why QAnon supporters believe Trump will be president on March 4th
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:55
Watch FBI director debunk conspiracy theories pushed by Trump supporters
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress, a policy research and advocacy organization and has held senior advisory positions in Democratic politics since the Clinton administration. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress, a policy research and advocacy organization and has held senior advisory positions in Democratic politics since the Clinton administration. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:33
Neera Tanden releases statement on pulling her nomination
PHOTO: KCAL/KCBS
Now playing
01:41
Multiple people killed in crash after SUV and semitruck collide
nigeria kidnapped schoolgirls released Busari pkg intl ldn vpx_00000423.png
nigeria kidnapped schoolgirls released Busari pkg intl ldn vpx_00000423.png
Now playing
02:09
Tears of joy and relief as 279 Nigerian schoolgirls return home
New satellite images taken by Maxar show that North Korea sometime in the past year built a structure that may be intended to obscure entrances to an underground facility where nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components are stored.
PHOTO: Courtesy Maxar
New satellite images taken by Maxar show that North Korea sometime in the past year built a structure that may be intended to obscure entrances to an underground facility where nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components are stored.
Now playing
01:47
See images US intelligence claims is a secret weapons site
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:29
NYT: Third woman comes forward against Gov. Andrew Cuomo
PHOTO: Courtesy Penguin Random House
Now playing
01:00
These 6 Dr. Seuss books won't be published anymore
John King Magic Wall 0301
PHOTO: CNN
John King Magic Wall 0301
Now playing
03:00
US coronavirus numbers coming down, but not enough
Lindsey Graham SOTU 5/28
PHOTO: CNN
Lindsey Graham SOTU 5/28
Now playing
01:01
Graham to Trump: Stay in Paris climate deal
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:35
See what security looks like outside US Capitol
PHOTO: Getty Images/CNN
Now playing
02:18
Bash: This is why key GOP senator is fighting Biden's stimulus
PHOTO: YouTube/Everyday Astronaut
Now playing
01:19
Watch SpaceX Mars prototype rocket nail landing, explode on pad
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16:  Physician to U.S. President Donald Trump Dr. Ronny Jackson listens during the daily White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Dr. Jackson discussed the details of President TrumpÕs physical check-up from last week.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Physician to U.S. President Donald Trump Dr. Ronny Jackson listens during the daily White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Dr. Jackson discussed the details of President TrumpÕs physical check-up from last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:14
DOD releases scathing review of former White House physician
PHOTO: CNN/Getty
Now playing
02:10
'Highly misleading at best': Dale reacts to Pence's op-ed
PHOTO: Gov. Cuomo's office
Now playing
03:35
Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses women's allegations
Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard Major General William J. Walker testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard Major General William J. Walker testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:01
DC National Guard commander: 'Unusual' Pentagon restrictions slowed response to Capitol riot
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
PHOTO: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Now playing
03:00
Hear why QAnon supporters believe Trump will be president on March 4th
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the January 6th insurrection, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 2, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:55
Watch FBI director debunk conspiracy theories pushed by Trump supporters
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress, a policy research and advocacy organization and has held senior advisory positions in Democratic politics since the Clinton administration. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Neera Tanden, nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on February 10, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Tanden helped found the Center for American Progress, a policy research and advocacy organization and has held senior advisory positions in Democratic politics since the Clinton administration. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:33
Neera Tanden releases statement on pulling her nomination
PHOTO: KCAL/KCBS
Now playing
01:41
Multiple people killed in crash after SUV and semitruck collide
nigeria kidnapped schoolgirls released Busari pkg intl ldn vpx_00000423.png
nigeria kidnapped schoolgirls released Busari pkg intl ldn vpx_00000423.png
Now playing
02:09
Tears of joy and relief as 279 Nigerian schoolgirls return home
New satellite images taken by Maxar show that North Korea sometime in the past year built a structure that may be intended to obscure entrances to an underground facility where nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components are stored.
PHOTO: Courtesy Maxar
New satellite images taken by Maxar show that North Korea sometime in the past year built a structure that may be intended to obscure entrances to an underground facility where nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components are stored.
Now playing
01:47
See images US intelligence claims is a secret weapons site
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City. The Governor said the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:29
NYT: Third woman comes forward against Gov. Andrew Cuomo
PHOTO: Courtesy Penguin Random House
Now playing
01:00
These 6 Dr. Seuss books won't be published anymore
John King Magic Wall 0301
PHOTO: CNN
John King Magic Wall 0301