President Trump announced Thursday afternoon that the U.S will withdraw from the Paris global climate pact, saying the accord is a bad deal for Americans. Trump, who has claimed without evidence over the years that climate change is a "hoax," made the announcement at the White House's Rose Garden.
"In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord," Trump said. He added that he will renegotiate the terms of the agreement to possibly re-enter the deal or seek another type of arrangement.
The White House had signalled that withdrawal was likely, but Trump has been known to change his mind at the last minute on such major decisions. Abandoning the pact was one of Trump's principal campaign pledges, but America's allies have expressed alarm about the likely consequences.
The White House invited representatives from several groups that support withdrawing from the Paris accord, including staff from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with close ties to the administration, and Myron Ebell, director of the Centre for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank that gets financial support from the fossil fuel industry.
Under the agreement, the US had agreed to reduce the country's pollution emissions by 26% to 28% of 2005 levels by 2025 — about 1.6 billion tons. (The United States is the world's second largest emitter of carbon.) Countries are permitted under the treaty to change their goals and there is no punishment for missing targets.
Pulling out of the agreement outright would take three-and-a-half years under the standard cooling-off period for new international treaties.
Abandoning the Paris pact would isolate the US from a raft of international allies who spent years negotiating the 2015 agreement to fight global warming and pollution by reducing carbon emissions in nearly 200 nations. While travelling abroad last week, Trump was repeatedly pressed to stay in the deal by European leaders and the pope.
Withdrawing would leave the United States aligned only with Russia among the world's industrialised economies. Syria and Nicaragua are the only two countries that didn't sign the agreement.
American corporate leaders have also appealed to the president to stay in the pact. They include Apple, Google, and Walmart. Even fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil, BP, and Shell say the United States should abide by the deal.
Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner if the US retreats from its pledge because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year — enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.